Only the strong survive.

Those were the words I was told in 1999 when I was sentenced to 20 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. I was only 17 years old, charged with 5 counts of aggravated robbery. So I made up my mind that I would not take no disrespect from nobody once I touched down on a prison sidewalk!

I’m a very ambitious guy so I had a chip on my shoulder. I was always hearing stories by older convicts on how dangerous it was in this system they call the “concrete jungle.” So I turned my attitude up a few notches. When anybody looked at me funny, I felt it was a test to see if I was weak so they could overtake my manhood! So I thought that if I wanted to survive, then I had to fight for my respect!

A lot of young guys were getting raped, and I wasn’t going to be a victim. I was willing to fight or kill anybody who felt they could take advantage of me. I had a lot of fights against good fighters and after eight months in the system, I had a rep that made me a prison celebrity. Cause I had a huge fight with a guy named “Slow Motion.” I was 17 and he was 21 and I defeated him. That victory shocked a lot of people, cause they thought I would lose. So that made me feel unbeatable.

But then I got a new cellmate. He was 21 years old and he’d been in college at the University of Texas. He was doing 4 years for 1 gram of heroin. He was very smart also, so he really was a great help to me and my future. When he first moved into my cell, I was real cocky and mean, so as time passed I continued to get into fights and trouble. I always hung around a bad crowd and we was up to no good.

But one night my celly

[cellmate] asked me a powerful question. “Rich boy, why do you keep getting into fights and trouble? Don’t you love your family, your kids and your freedom?

“Hell yeah, I love my family, but I got to fight and keep these dudes afraid of me cause that’s how the strong survive.”

And that’s when he said, “Look young brother, you don’t have to fight to survive. Being physical and fighting won’t guarantee your survival!  But if you fight with your mind and stop hanging with those thugs that you call friends you will make it home to your family!

I’m reading a lot more and feeding my mind with education, cause one day I will have to be a full grown man with responsibilities as an adult. So everyday after that conversation, my celly was teaching me how to clean my life up and be a smart, humble young man. He had me studying, learning mathematics, language, and all these things I needed in order to pass my G.E.D test.

And I have truly become a respectful, honest and humble young man. I have my G.E.D and I also got a degree in public speaking. I also discovered hidden talents. I’m a poet and an artist! And I now realized that only the strong survive prison by using the mind in a positive way.

I never thought I would become the man I am, but thanks to my celly I’m a better man, rehabilitated, and ready for a successful future upon my release. My mother isn’t alive but I know she is very proud of my change.

Richard Taylor is serving 20 years in Texas for Aggravated Robbery.

We send comments to our writers, but if you’d like to contact Richard Taylor directly, please write: 

Richard Taylor #874166

Clements Unit

9601 Spur 591

Amarillo, TX 79107