Separate Segregation – a Letter from a Prisoner – by Harold M. Laird

As I mentioned in my previous post How Writing to Inmates Changed my Life, here comes the first of the three letters I received. This one was written by Harold M. Laird, who is imprisoned in a separate segregation unit. We all know about ad seg (administrative segregation) but until recently I had never heard of separate segregation. I thought that ad seg was the ultimate punishment, but apparently there is worse …

Please read Harold’s letter to find out more.

Thank you

Separate Segregation - a Letter from a Prisoner - by Harold M. Laird
Photo credit; pexels, by Donald Tong


My name is Harold M. Laird TDCJ #659512. I am writing this with hopes to bring attention to the area I’m housed in.

The area I’m talking about is called ALU (or separate seg. or super seg. or AS-A ADMSEG, depending on who you talk to) and is on the Coffield Unit.

This area “officially” is nothing more than another ad seg (or restrictive housing) cell block. However, its official status and its true use are two different things.

You see, this area as it’s used does not exist in any policy or TDCJ procedure. It’s used to isolate the influential, the Rubble rousers, the prisoners who fight against the system, the problem child the system can’t control, etc.

That may sound reasonable to some, but the problem goes much deeper. By TDCS policy Ad seg is the most restrictive harshest security restraint they have. But when Ad seg. will not be “punishment enough”, ALU becomes the place they put you in.

The difference between normal Ad seg. and ALU is extreme. The major differences are:

  • Only a director or deputy director can place or remove a prisoner from ALU
  • There is no due process for placement or removal from ALU
  • All prisoners in ALU are forced to wear handcuffs with a black box cuff protector on them any time they exit the cell (whether it is justified or not!) The cuffs are behind our backs unless medical approves a front cuff pass.
  • All prisoners start out wearing 2 sets of handcuffs (one with the black box on it) and leg restraints any time they exit the cell.
  • Nothing in ALU can be done without a Sgt or above present to turn the keys. So, nothing gets done on time or in any routine fashion.
  • We rarely get outside recreation, and when we do the recreation area is covered in bird crap because of a barn-like structure suspended over it which creates a bird sanctuary with literally hundreds of birds nesting in it. This creates a health hazard, so most of us don’t bother going on the rare chance we may get.

Harold M. Laird

During my time in ALU I have personally been assaulted twice by prisoners trying to get out of this area, once very seriously.

I have witnessed three other prisoners get shot with arrows, one of which died.

I’ve seen four officers get stabbed (one in the eye, two in the head, and one in the knee).

I’ve seen other offenders gain access to other people’s cells on four occasions, two of which ended with serious injuries (one of those I filed a civil lawsuit on in the Federal Court’s Eastern District back in 2008 – Harold M. Laird vs Gerald Gower)

I’ve witnessed 10-12 officers assault prisoners, and have heard of multiple violent acts happen before I got here.

Why am I here? That’s a two-part answer.

First, I was placed in ALU in June 2004 at the request of the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) because two captors assaulted me in the Gib Lewis Units High Seccurity Building. I passed two polygraph exams and my complaint opened a huge investigating over 300 uses of force in a two-year period.

I filed a lawsuit on this in the Eastern District of TX Federal Court (Harold M. Laird vs Clifton Mattox in 2005, went to trial on it and lost.

That incident is what got me transferred from Gib Lewis H.S. to Coffield ALU.

Second, why I was on Gib Lewis H.S. to begin with played a role in my placement in ALU.

In 2001, I escaped from ad. seg. on Styles Unit and was re-captured two days later in Mississippi. When returned to TDCJ I was put on Gib Lewis H.S.

My escape from TDCJ happened at a very hard time for them. They had just settled a big lawsuit that was supposed to make TDCJ more secure from escapes (the suit was from the family of the police officer killed by the Texas seven escapees). TDCJ took my escape personally as Larry Todd, the media spokesman for TDCJ, at the time clearly said to the Beaumont newspaper: “Harold Laird blacked our eye and we take that personally.”

Due to them taking it personally I was forced to undergo much mistreatment at the hands of officers on Gib Lewis H.S, which led to the captors assaulting me, etc, which ultimately blacked their eye again so to speak.

So, since I had given TDCJ two black eyes they put me in ALU and 17.5 years later I’m still here. I’ve been told by multiple TDCJ officers that the only way I’ll get out of ALU is parole or death.

Well, I’m a fighter and they ain’t broken me, so I’ll keep on fighting the hypocrisy and injustice of this system.

Since I’ve been in ALU I’ve been featured in two TV shows. “I (almost) got away with it; Got to be a Macgyver” and “Breakout, the real macgyver”

Over the 30 years I’ve been incarcerated I’ve lost contact with all my family and friends. So, I’d love to make some new friends and experience new things. There’s always so much to learn from others and I’m definitely down with learning. So, if you’d like, please contact me at:

Harold M. Laird

659512 Coffield

2661 FM 2054

Tennessee Colony, TX 75884





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  1. I usually do have compassion for inmates, but only to a certain extent. It’s really hard to feel sorry for Harold Laird. He’s been incarcerated for over 30 years. What in the world did this man do? Also, he tried to escape, and he is a detriment to the system in terms of them not being able to control him. Why doesn’t he just comply with what is being asked of him? Everybody doesn’t go into AIU. Only the most difficult, troublemakers. Sorry, I’m just not feeling the compassion for this man.

    1. Hi Shalisha,

      I understand your point of view, but the trouble he caused happened over 17 years ago … One cannot expect him to be the same man from back then. People change and evolve.
      I do not know him personally, but I read his letter twice and I have the impression that he has changed and wants a second chance. I think that he wouldn’t mess up this second chance if it were given to him, but the horrific thing is that the system wants him to rot in that separate segregation unit, this unit that no one even knows about. I can hardly imagine that anyone deserves to “live” in shackles and chains ALL their life, regardless of the trouble they caused in the past. That sounds medieval to me. I understand where you’re coming from, you have a right to your opinion, and yes, he is no innocent, but forcing him to “live” like this makes his jailers even worse, in my opinion.

      1. I have written to Harold for years and also visited him personally four times. If anyone is capable of change it would be Harold since he has sincere remorse for his crime. The more horrible thing to me about Ad Seg is that they also NEVER let them out of their cells. They are supposed to get out for exercise and more often that not that doesn’t happen. There are many other things they cannot do because of where they are. For instance he cannot take course and get his high school leaving certificate. He is treated worse than an animal would be treated – at least there are animal rights groups. There is no one anywhere standing up for his rights. I believe he is on the point of giving up. You can write to him at the Coffield Unit in Texas through JPay. Harold Martin Laird.

        1. Hi Patricia,

          Absolutely, AdSeg is a terrible place. I was shocked when I first learned about it and Harold’s (and the other men’s letters from AdSeg left a deep impact on me.
          The word about AdSeg is getting out and I hope that soon it will be closed down. I believe that now – or very soon – they also have access to the Securus tablets, finally 🙂

    2. He killed two people at age 17. The man he killed he believed had raped his mother. He broke out of a maximum security institution two or three years later and embarrassed the prisons officials. No one was hurt during or after the breakout. His success at breaking out resulted in some dismissals at the prison as as I said some embarrassment among officials. To make him pay for that they placed his in Ad Seg where prisoners have less freedom and and are given less consideration than any other prisoner anywhere in the system. They are in 23 hours a day and that 24th hour when they are supposed to be out for exercise usually goes by without being let out either. He has been in that cell under those conditions for years and years, more than you can conceive of. He does not cause trouble on the unit – he does try to reason with other prisoners so they don’t start violent outbreaks and riots. He has also been known for fixing things for other prisoners such as broken radios etc. There is much that is re-habilitable about him but the longer he’s kept in a cage, the less he could cope on the outside if he were ever left out, so damaged will his brain be. I don’t say that his crime was anything less than horrible but is this how American treats its prisoners?

  2. I learned about this man after watching the TV show ‘Breakout.’ He sounds like a nice, kind, and gentle man. I’m aware he was sent to jail for a passionate crime that he committed when he was 17. Having said this, I find it odd how the law treats 17-year-olds as ‘kids’ in some cases, but in other cases, it treats them as ‘adults.’ As for the time when he successfully escaped, instead of punishing him for it, they should ask for his assistance to make prisons safer. I hope they let this man experience freedom again; he shouldn’t be behind bars. I think he has already paid a price for the passionate crime he was responsible for when he was a teenager.

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