July 26, 2008

Gladiator schools for Natives

Prisons poisoning natives

Jails turn out to be 'gladiator schools' for the many aboriginals who end up there"I made a name for myself because I was really vicious," says Napoose, an articulate, 27-year-old resident of the Samson Cree reserve, south of Edmonton. "I would basically volunteer to beat people up."

What makes Napoose's story unusual is that a year ago he quit Redd Alert, a street gang affiliated with the Hells Angels, after his second stint in a federal penitentiary. What makes it all too common is that prison turned Napoose into a more dangerous gang member than when he walked in.

He entered as a foot soldier, or "striker," and became—during two tours and 5 ½ years in Edmonton's maximum security prison—one of Redd Alert's four governing council members. He rose through the ranks on the inside by selling drugs and dispensing pain, distinguishing himself in riots and a gang war.

"The term gladiator school—basically, that's what prison is," says Napoose. "When I walked into the Edmonton max I was 20 years old and 160 pounds. By the time I walked out...I was six foot, 220 pounds, tattered up, mean, and basically I could deal with a lot of people and a lot of people didn't want to deal with me. I was just a scary person."

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