Gangs Not The Answer
by Raymond Martinez, #768. Ex-gang member

My name is Raymond De Leon Martinez. I am a Texas Death Row inmate, and here on Death Row everybody calls me Rainbow. I am also an ex-gang member and this is what I want to write about.

I joined a prison gang back in 1978 thinking that we were going to be like the Mafia from Italy. At the time when I was recruited, I was given six months to think about it; whether I wanted to join or not. Once I joined, I became the leader of the gang on the prison unit where I was serving my time.

From the very start of the gang's existence, there was always bickering, constant dissatisfaction among gang members. Nobody wanted to take orders. We were, in general, just a bunch of undisciplined hard-heads wanting the gang to make us something special. By 1980, there were twenty-six gang members on that unit, and by 1982, twenty-four gang members had either gotten out or gotten transferred to another unit. I went home in December, 1982, and the remaining gang members of the original twenty-six were killed four months after I got out of prison by two new gang members. By July, 1983, there were only ten left alive of the original twenty -six. That is when I was arrested for six murder charges and dozens of armed robberies.

I was free for only seven months and I was also leader of the gang in the free-world for that short time. I was born in a small town and was raised in the country. So actually, I'm a country boy. The other gang member that hung around with me in the free-world was also a country boy and neither of us used drugs. We were living in Houston and whenever we would run into other members of our gang, they would usually try to hide from us. After I was arrested and sentenced to death, especially after I arrived here on the main row, nobody in the gang would help me.

Why not? Well, I'll tell you why.

When I was free, I ran into several members of our gang, none of the original twenty-six, but, nevertheless, members just the same, and they were all broke and hooked on either heroin or coke or both. Only the country boy was not hooked. So how could I expect anybody from the gang to help me when they couldn't help themselves?

Over the years a lot of things have changed about the gang, but one thing remains constant, and that's the kind of people the gang lures. Who are those that join the gangs and what kind of qualifications do you need to join the gang? All you need are three basic qualities. First of all, you got to be plenty stupid for wanting to join, and secondly, ignorant. The gang calls it having heart, or having courage to commit violent acts. What kind of violent acts? You name it, anything from setting another inmate on fire, to drowning someone by forcing his head in the toilet and all kinds of violent acts between drowning someone and setting someone on fire. The last quality you need to join the gang is gullibility, because you might have to take a senseless order from a gang leader to commit a brutal, senseless, violent act upon someone you don't even know.

So if you want to join a gang, check yourself first to see if you have the right qualifications to join. First, make sure you are plenty stupid, and, secondly, make sure you are ignorant to the bone, and, finally, make sure you are so gullible that you cannot say no when they give you a senseless order to carry out. If you have those three qualifications, you will make a perfect gang member.

What are you looking for? Do you want the gang to make you something special? How can the gang make you something special when the gang itself is a stigma? The gang has lost its prestige. People used to look up to the gang and gang members used to be respected. It used to be an honor to be a gang member. But like I said, things have changed, not because I say so, but because things have really changed. There is no more honor in the gang. If you are a gang member in the free-world, your life is swinging on thin thread, and believe me, it's swinging and eventually the thread will break.

How people in the free-world perceive the gang? As beetles, the kind of insects that roll feces, but gang beetles roll terror, paranoia, and dishonor into decent neighborhoods. People in general perceive the gang as the lowest scum of the world.

If you are not a gang member, what is my advice to you? Don't join. Why not? Because if you join, you will eventually end up in prison or dead or both, just like me. I am in prison, and very soon, I will be dead, too.

Are you looking for recognition? Are you young and naive? If so, my heart goes out to you. Do you want to be somebody special? Then show the people what you can do. Can you build a house? Can you f1X a car when it breaks down? What skills do you possess? If you have no skills, it's okay, but learn to do something. Learn a trade. Get some skills and you will be somebody special. Have some honesty and honor about yourself and people will automatically look up to you. Will you help the old lady cross the street and will you carry her grocery bags home whenever you see her trudging down the sidewalk cumbersomely? Let her rest assured that you will not mug her and fill her heart with fear and terror. Can your mind be as steady and strong when temptation lurks by? Sure you can! And if you wrote to me and said, "Rainbow, I am going to be the Whole Wide Oak Tree in my neighborhood", I will die with heart exonerated. But let's forget my heart. What do you want to be? Do you want to join a gang and be perceived as a beetle that rolls faces, or do you want to be the Wide Oak Tree in your neighborhood?