Discover the wrenching tales that ex-NFL running back Lawrence Phillips wrote about maximum-security prison.
More than 100 miles north of Los Angeles lies Kern Valley State Prison where Lawrence Phillips, a first-round pick in the 1996 NFL draft, is locked up.
The former powerhouse running back, who spent two years playing for the St. Louis Rams and another seven years bouncing around the NFL, AFL, NFL Europe and CFL, was convicted of driving his car into three teenagers and assaulting an ex-girlfriend. Phillips was sentenced to 31 years on a total of 14 counts.
Although there has been no public announcement from Phillips outside the courtroom in more than a decade, earlier this week USA Today Sports surfaced his handwritten letters from prison, which exposed the brutality of his term.
For starters, Phillips, 40, describes the prison as a “free for all.” In a facility designed to house fewer than 2,500 inmates but currently holds more than 3,700, the convicted felon documents the killings, drug dealing and racial animosity between black and white prisoners over the last few years.
On April 12, 2015, his prison cellmate Damion Soward was found dead, and Phillips was named a prime suspect in the case, as authorities continue the investigation.
The letters are written to his high school football coach Tony Zane, who helped mold Phillips into an all-star athlete at Baldwin Park High School in Southern California, and Ty Pagone, a retired vice principal and former football coach at Baldwin Park High.
JAN. 14, 2014
"Dear Coach Zane, How are you doing? I’m doing well. As you might have noticed on the envelope, I have been moved from the cell I was in. I spent some days in the hole for refusing to room with a gang member. They have now took my privileges, which include yard (exercise), canteen, vendor packages, and all personal property for 180 days. I will of course appeal this decision as I was refusing to room with gang members after already having had incidents with gang members. At any rate, I just wanted to write to you and let you know in case that the package I requested was returned. I have not received any mail since moving, so I do not know if you sent the package. They are supposed to re-route mail, but they usually don’t check and make sure they guy in the cell is the correct guy to receive the mail. At any rate, I will appeal the situation and I should get relief due to my several incidents involving gang members. We are on lock down at this time due to a murder and the stabbing of five other dudes. I hope you and your family are well and had a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year."
Next: 'Lock Down' Letter