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'They'll have strength in numbers'

August 12, 2007|by ERIN JULIUS

Richard D'Ascenzo rejected a five-year plea deal when he was charged with insurance fraud, the Roxbury Correctional inmate explained during a May interview. He's now been in prison for more than 10 years, sentenced to do 45 years for his crimes, D'Ascenzo said.

He was convicted of larceny, theft of property and solicitation to murder, a Division of Correction spokesman said.

D'Ascenzo is familiar with the Maryland prison system, having served time in the Jessup area and in all three Hagerstown prisons. Since 2003, he's called RCI home.

He lives with another inmate he has known for years and handpicked for a cellmate.

D'Ascenzo describes the prison as "normally docile" but said that gang activity is making it tense.

Criminal gangs such as the Bloods, Crips and Dead Man, Inc. are recruiting youngsters into their system, he said.

D'Ascenzo said he believes inmates join gangs for protection. "If they get together as a team they'll have strength in numbers," he said.

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At the same time, D'Ascenzo said, gang loyalties can lead to fights and stabbings.

D'Ascenzo gives his fellow inmates points for creativity. They can craft makeshift tattoo needles from pens or toothbrushes and motors from cassette players.

Prisoners also make their own alcoholic brew using potatoes, fruit, bread - whatever is available - and letting it ferment.

Those who drink the homemade hooch need an escape, D'Ascenzo said.

- Erin Julius

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