Falling in Reverse's Ronnie Radke Reveals Six Things Not To Do in Jail
There’s a line in The Shawshank Redemption where hardened jailbird Red Redding (played by Morgan Freeman) asks the newly incarcerated Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) why he murdered his wife, and Dufresne claims he was set up. “Hell, you're gonna fit right in then,” replies Redding. “Everyone's innocent in here. Don't you know that?” Of course, during the course of the film, the viewer finds out that Dufresne was, in fact, innocent, but was caught up in a corrupt system.
Falling in Reverse frontman (then the frontman for Escape the Fate) Ronnie Radke claims he suffered the same fate as Dufresne. In 2008, the singer got into a nasty confrontation in the Las Vegas desert. The rocker went there to take part in a showdown with someone that, he says, was threatening him and Escape the Fate’s bassist Max Green, so Radke brought some friends for protection. Unfortunately, so did his rival. Shots were fired and two men were hit, one fatally. Police found brass knuckles on Radke and arrested him. Everyone else, he claims, got off scot-free.
“I was told if I pleaded guilty to one felony count of assault and battery, I’d get probation,” Radke says. “I actually didn’t hurt anybody. But I saw it happen. I should have gotten a gross misdemeanor. I didn’t shoot anybody. I would never even carry a gun. That’s crazy. I didn’t even know anybody had a gun. I don’t know why else everybody got off. They were making an example of me.”
Radke received probation, but the terms included being clean and he was addicted to narcotics at the time and unable to kick. He also had to have a 40-hour-a-week job and remain in the state, which meant he couldn’t tour with Escape the Fate. “I was high on drugs and I was depressed so I didn’t listen to anything the judge was telling me I did whatever I wanted.”
Busted for violating probation, a judge sentenced Radke to 18 to 48 months behind bars. Partway through his sentence, he got a prison tattoo and shortly after got into a fistfight with inmates who didn’t appreciate his rock-and-roll tattoos and quasi-celebrity status. When guards checked inmates hands after the fight, not only did they notice Radke’s scraped, bruised knuckles, they saw his freshly healing prison tattoo. Since both fighting and tats were against the rules, Radke was put into solitary confinement. With nothing else to do and no one to talk to, he wrote songs in his cell without the use of an instrument or tape recorder. When he got out of jail after two and a half years (half spent in solitary for belligerence), he put a new band together, Falling in Reverse, and entered the studio with producer Elvis Baskette. A few months later, they had recorded their debut The Drug in Me Is You, which came out in 2011.
Instead of talking about how he found his bandmates, created the record, and what it was like to be a free man working on a new album, Radke talked to RevolverMag.com about something far more practical: Things not to do if you find yourself behind bars.
1. Don’t have fans send letters to your jail cell.
“I got thousands of letters while I was in jail and the guards hated me because they had to do extra work to sort through shit. When I left, they made me throw away three out of six boxes of fan mail because there wasn’t enough room in the van they were taking me out. The letters I got from fans were crazy. They were so passionate. A mother wrote me because her daughter was sick. She had some type of disease and she asked me if I could go to her birthday party in Texas because she was dying. I got a lot of mail from people who cut themselves and they said my music made them stop. I also got so many love letters and proposals, but most of them said I helped them a lot with the lyrics I write and they loved me and couldn’t wait 'til I got out. I couldn’t believe they would do that for me or that they’d even remember me.”
2. Don’t tell the guards you’re calling your lawyer when you’re really calling home.
“I said I was making a legal call to call my lawyer. They give you the phone every time if you say that. But I couldn’t get hold of him, so I called my dad and then I got in trouble for that because they were listening in. They took my TV and phone away for 60 days."
3. Don’t do anything to piss off the Chief Executive Officer of the jail.
"I was in the visiting room and I got mad at the CEO because I asked for my release date and she wouldn’t give it to me. It was sitting right on her desk. I got 30 days of extra time for that."
4. Don't worry about dropping the soap.
"It’s pretty gnarly, but there are no rapes or anything in prison anymore. That stopped happening when the structures of prisons changed. Now there are cameras and people got shotguns and stuff."
5. Don’t get involved in a prison gang.
"People get stabbed that way. I saw that happen in gang rivalries a couple times. I saw somebody get stabbed in the neck. A guy just stuck him and he was bleeding everywhere, but he survived."
6. Don’t do drugs.
"I used to be so fucked up on drugs. I was doing heroin, Oxycontin, cocaine all mixed together. I should be dead, actually. I overdosed in 2005 on Oxy and Xanax, which is a lethal combination. I took three shots of vodka and I don’t remember taking the Xanax. But when I got to jail, I just said, 'I hate all drugs' and I stayed away from 'em. The title of the album is a reference to myself. I looked in the mirror one day, saw death staring me in the face, and realized I’m my own downfall. The lyrics are me talking to myself, realizing what I’ve become. I realized that instead of the drugs being the problem, the actual problem was me and that I could change it. I told myself that when I got out, no matter how I felt, I wasn’t going to do any drugs. I was afraid I was fooling myself because I’ve always been told that’s the kind of person I am. But I haven’t even thought of scoring drugs. I have no cravings or anything."