We ask you to carefully consider and evaluate what is said here. We also hope you never find yourself where we are - death row. Death row is a place where time takes on a new meaning. Unlike inmates serving a set number of years , many here don't want their "Time to be up". At the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Institutional Division, on the Polunsky Unit, inmates are kept on six separate wings set aside for the condemned, and there's always room for one more. We would like to give you an idea of what an average day is like for us here, because, even if things don't look good for us, we know there is still hope for you. We want you to compare the life you lead with the one we lead, then you can make an informed decision as to which you would prefer.
First, we want you to understand death row inmates are not allowed to mingle with regular general population inmates. We are segregated from the general population and live in maximum security. An average day begins with breakfast at 3:00am. Sleeping habits vary, based on when you're allowed out of your cell for a one hour exercise period. Say you're going out first, then you might stay up after breakfast and be ready to exercise at 7:00am. If you're fortunate enough to have a radio you can listen to it while you are waiting. Otherwise, you'll read a book, write a letter, or just sit there and stare at the wall. Before you're allowed out for exercise you are strip searched for weapons and contraband. A strip search consists of being stripped naked and having to raise your arms., run your fingers through your hair, open your mouth, turn around and spread your buttocks and show the bottom of your feet. This is standard procedure. Before being taken out of your cell you are handcuffed behind your back then escorted to the day room by two officers. Once inside the day room the handcuffs are removed. Everything is single man, never are two men put together.
You never leave your cell without being strip searched and handcuffed. However, you'll become accustomed to this small indignity, unless you'd prefer staying in your cell 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
At the Polunsky Unit in Livingston, Texas, you are placed in an isolation cell, a food slot built into the solid steel door, controlled by the picket control electrically. You can get nothing into the cell nor out of the cell unless the food slot is opened by an officer with a special bar. You cannot see the man next to you, you are totally isolated. Alone.
Once you've had your one hour of exercise it's usually time for lunch (10:00 - 11:00). After lunch, if you want out for exercise you'll be given the opportunity to take a shower. After you've showered you're returned to your cell for the rest of the day. Supper isn't until about 4:00pm. If you are fortunate enough to have someone come visit you then you can look forward to getting out of your cell for at least another two hours. Otherwise, you're confined in your cell for 23 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Say you have a visitor. once again, you're strip searched, handcuffed and then escorted to the visiting room by two officers. In the visiting room you are placed in a small steel mesh cage or cubicle. Your visitors are not allowed any contact with you. There's a double steel mesh screen and thick tempered glass separating you. You're only allowed a 2 hour visit each week. This is the highlight of your week, even if it is painful only being able to "see" your family or friends. The worst part is when your visitor leaves and you have to return to your 7' x 10' cell and the world of death row.
You've had your visit for the week and you're back in your cell - it's supper time. You eat all meals in your cell. An officer brings a tray to your cell at each meal time and if there's something to drink with the meal, an officer will bring that to you also. After supper you eagerly wait for the mail to be passed out; it's something you look forward to each day. You wait to hear from loved ones or friends , because your primary connection to the outside world is through the mail. Whether you receive mail or not you decide to write a letter because there's not much else to do. You have a lot of time on your hands and little or no encouragement to use it wisely; after all, you're sitting here waiting to die. You don't have any real hope of a future because you've spent three, four, five, ten years of your life with the same routine day-in and day-out.
You wonder how long it will be before your appeal is decided. When will it end? Sure, you don't want to die, but you think, "if it's going to happen then let's get it over with." That's part of the system - sitting and waiting for your fate to be decided. Meanwhile you live in limbo. You're told when you can shower, when you can exercise, when you can have a visitor, and when you'll eat. Every aspect of your life is controlled by prison authorities.
As you can see, freedom and privacy are nonexistent here. The only time you have anything remotely resembling freedom or privacy is while you're in your 7' x 10' cell. What does a person do when they are in despair and have no control over their life? What would you do? Is this the kind of life you want to lead? If it isn't then you don't have to - YOU still have a choice.
People commit crimes of their own free will. No one forces you to commit a crime. If you commit a crime it will be because you choose to do so. If this is the choice you make then expect to end up in prison and possibly on death row. You're saying, "I'm not going to commit a crime - and if I do I won't get caught." Right? Let us ask you this: Do you use drugs or alcohol? If so, then you're a potential candidate for a stay in jail or prison. Once you've made the first trip the second and third are always easier to arrange. The best thing to do is to avoid the first trip. When under the influence of alcohol some people's whole personality changes, which results in their doing things they wouldn't normally do. This is commonly referred to as the "Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde syndrome" and represents yet another snare that can land you in prison.
Something else to think about is you don't even have to commit a crime to end up in prison or death row. Just be in the wrong place at the wrong time, or with the wrong crowd, and you could be the next innocent victim of the system. If you hang out with the wrong crowd you are in danger of being blamed for a crime you did not commit. If you're hanging out with the wrong crowd, drinking or using drugs just to be cool or accepted among your peers then you need to ask yourself a question. Is a brief high or being cool worth your life or that of another? We're not telling you who to hang out with or how to run your life. We just don't want to see you here with us and want you to know what's in store for you if you do end up in prison, or worse yet, on death row. We hope you think about the things you've read and make an informed decision.
You may be asking yourself, "How do these guys handle being on death row? How do you handle life in a 7' x 10' cell?" By now you realize we've all lost more than just our freedom. However, what you don't know is we've all gained something too - the power of Jesus Christ in our lives. With Jesus in our lives we have peace in out hearts. We know it's not a popular thing to be christian in today's world. Jesus Christ gives us His promise of Eternal Life and a Place in His Kingdom. Through Him we've found peace, learned the meaning of love, been given strength in stressful times, and much more. He is a friend like no other! When there's no one you can talk to He's always there. The Lord gives us each a free will to serve Him and do His will, or to live our lives as we please. The death we experience in this life is only a physical death. We can all have Everlasting Life if we turn to Jesus Christ. Otherwise, you'll die a physical death and a spiritual death. This is yet another choice you have to make.
Whether you live a law-abiding, productive and happy life is up to you. The CHOICE is yours. We've tried to give you some idea of what prison life is like and what some of your alternatives are. No one is going to force you to use drugs, stick up that store, or break into someone's home. If you do these things it's because you and only you decide to do so.
We sincerely hope to never see any of you on death row or in any part of the prison system. If you ever find yourself at a crossroads, where you must make a decision concerning the things we've discussed, we hope and pray you'll choose wisely and not do something to jeopardize your freedom. Unfortunately, it's difficult to realise how precious your freedom truly is until you've lost it.
If you need advice or counseling about what we've discussed, or you want to know more about what prison life is like feel free to contact one of us. We don't profess to have all the answers, but we know there is ALWAYS alternatives, and now you know THE CHOICE IS YOURS.
In Jesus' Life Changing name.
Alvin Kelly and John Wade Adams.
The Choice Is Yours Program.
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