“Real Prison Real Freedom” Releases Today Chronicling Transformation of Notorious Texas Inmate and Entire Texas Prison System Telling Heartbreaking Life Story of Rickie Smith
A new book, “Real Prison, Real Freedom,” releases today. The biography by Rosser McDonald shares an inside look at the Texas prison system’s most tumultuous years, from 1975 through 2000, through the lens of inmate Rickie Smith’s own story of transformation. Once considered the most violent inmate in the Texas prison system, a live-changing encounter with the Gospel message transformed his heart, his habits and his life.
“Real Prison Real Freedom” shares Smith’s life story from the time of his birth to the present day through the words of retired Oklahoma reporter Rosser McDonald, who met Smith 30 years ago when filming his award-winning documentary about prison ministry.
“When I first met Rickie, God had gotten hold of his heart, and he was so very different from the younger, viciously violent former member of the white supremacist Aryan Brotherhood about whom I learned when investigating his backstory,” said McDonald. “As a man of faith, I am continually humbled and encouraged by Rickie’s radical journey, which is an unshakable testimony of the redeeming nature of a real relationship with God.”
The beginning of Smith’s long prison career coincided with extreme turbulence in the Texas Department of Corrections (now Texas Department of Criminal Justice). A federal court ruled that inmates were treated “inhumanely” and therefore unconstitutionally. The prison system rejected the court’s judgement and, in the year-long trial, denied the existence of activity the judge sighted as inhumane. The judge took personal control of the entire system and kept it twenty years, before acknowledging that adequate changes had been made.
When the court-ordered policies were finalized, TDC continued to deny issues and resisted changes. The result was several years of chaos throughout the system. That turbulence and the growing gang wars contributed to Smith’s own turmoil and struggling against prison officers.
Originally sentenced to 10 years in 1983 for criminal mischief and possession of a controlled substance, Smith had three 99-year terms added for attempted murder while in prison. The book recounts his multiple savage attacks on both fellow inmates and guards — his attempts to earn respect in this system where violence and inhumanity seemed to reign.
Smith would be passed around from prison to prison due to his unruly violence. He rejected any kind of correction, legal or spiritual, but became more burdened and depressed as his murderous plans kept failing. Finally, because of the faithful letters of one Christian man who continually sent Scripture-filled notes to Smith, the word “rest” took hold in his mind and he sought solace in the Bible. He was transformed from a man of violence to a man of peace, who continues to share hope with fellow inmates even in the midst of COVID-19 fears within the prison system.
“Rickie’s story is an important one for every one,” said McDonald. “It’s a beautiful and moving reminder that there is no evil in this world stronger than the love of God. The life of Rickie Smith is a powerful testimony for any individual fascinated by stories of radical transformation and happy endings that didn’t seem possible.”
Though Smith remains in the Alfred Hughes Unit in Gatesville, Texas, serving out his three 99-year sentences, McDonald felt his story needed to be shared and wrote “Real Prison Real Freedom,” which releases May 19. For more information, visit https://alarryross.com/real-prison-real-freedom.
About Rosser McDonald
Rosser McDonald left his career as a seismographer in 1965 to pursue a job in radio, a catalytic career change that would propel him into unprecedented success. He then worked as a news reporter in Oklahoma before being recruited to Dallas to work as a state government and political news reporter.
It was in Dallas where McDonald developed his craft for in-depth coverage and began making documentaries. His award-winning documentary “Set Free” covering Texas prison systems hosted by Tom Landry allowed him to meet and form friendships with multiple hardened inmates, including Rickie Smith, who would become the subject of his debut book, “Real Prison Real Freedom.”
Today, McDonald is retired from the news and radio industry but continues to correspond with his friends in prison and works with Christian filmmakers in his spare time.
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