How does it feel to have met “the most violent prisoner in the Texas Department of Corrections”? Author Rosser McDonald tells all about it during his appearance on Kate Delaney’s radio program America Tonight.
McDonald, a Christian, and award-winning documentary filmmaker, even published a book on Real Prison Real Freedom (Elm Hill; 2020). The book tells the story of Rickie Smith, “the most violent prisoner in the Texas Department of Corrections.”
Who is Rosser McDonald?
Rosser McDonald left his job in seismography in 1965 to take a small position at a radio station. After two years in radio, Rosser worked at local TV stations in Oklahoma and Texas as a reporter. After 16 years, McDonald moved to the Southern Baptist Radio and Television Commission, where he stayed for 28 years as a producer.
As an award-winning journalist, McDonald developed many documentaries, which won him awards and Emmy nominations. He won a Katie Award from the Dallas Press Association, an Associated Press Documentary Award about the Texas Prison System, and an award from the Texas Medical Association for a documentary on marijuana. He also produced documentaries for NBS hosted by Hollywood celebrities.
What “Real Prison Real Freedom” is all about
Several of McDonald’s documentaries focused on Texas prison ministry. While filming one of his award-winning documentaries, McDonald became acquainted with multiple inmates confined to “Super Segregation” or “SuperSeg” for their hardcore behavior.
“‘Super Segregation’ is the name given a row of a dozen cells especially to create the most segregated, highest security block of the Texas prison system,” McDonald wrote in his book. “They house the most dangerous inmates in Texas prisons at the time.”
In the filmmaking process, McDonaldformed authentic friendships with the inmates he interviewed, including Rickie Smith, who was reputed to be the most violent man in the Texas prison system. Rickie’s inspiring story and dramatic life change would become the subject of McDonald’s book, Real Prison, Real Freedom.
“Rickie Smith had somewhat of a normal early childhood but then got a little tougher when he got older as his dad was very strong on him and taught him some of the attitudes,” McDonald told his host Kate Delaney. “Rickie eventually got himself into petty crimes, burglaries, and stuff like that.
“That was enough eventually to get him into prison, and he had a term that would only take him three years to get out. And then, 90 days after he got out, he was back in on a drug charge. The drug charge would have cost him ten years of his life, but he didn’t let it stop there. He added over 300 years in sentences to his term in prison because he was attacking the prison system and the officers and guards.
“I met Rickie Smith. He was in the most secured, specially built cells called Super Segregation. A volunteer chaplain took me back there to meet him and tell me that this man had become a Christian. He was a new Christian at that time, just a few months or so after he accepted the Lord.”
Despite having accepted the Lord, Rickie remains in Super Segregation to this day. According to the author, the prison system does not offer special treatment, not even to Christians. Their concern of the prison system is security. “They had to treat him the same way that they had been treating him, and they did.”
“It turns out we just kind of hit it off. We corresponded. I visited him a few times. Finally, I said, ‘You know what? This is a story that has to be told.’
How Rickie had found ‘rest’?
“I described in the book the process and how he went through that. One of the main reasons why I wanted to write the book was to show how you can become a man in a contrast being the most violent man in Texas prison and a man who says that he is a Christian and will live like a Christian and all that it entails. So, that’s the process he went through, and it pretty started with one word: ‘rest.’
“Rickie and some others had gotten so determined that they were gonna get out, kill an inmate who they consider a snitch, and they were gonna kill a guard and so on. But all of their plans failed, and Rickie was completely out of energy. He couldn’t do anything anymore. He couldn’t think anymore.
“There was a letter that he had received a couple of years before that, that told him that in Matthew, Jesus said, ‘Come unto me, all you who are laden, and I will give you rest.’ That word ‘rest’ jumped out at Rickie.”
McDonald then guided Rickie toward becoming a Christian. “After he became a Christian, he had a long period of learning to change his life completely from what it had been before. Part of his story is also helping him to learn what it means to be a Christian after having been an empty Christian.”
Get to know more about Rickie Smith’s story in Rosser McDonald’s Real Prison Real Freedom. Order today on Amazon.