Kindness, Shakedowns and A/V Monitoring

Tales from death row: Justice for Rodney Reed by Caitlin Adams

Each death row visit is monitored in a couple of ways.  We sit in a cubicle with thick glass between us and have to speak over a telephone that's monitored.  And, of course, there are cameras and guards around monitoring us as well.

It's hard to believe that the audio and visual monitoring of all death row visits could have an upside, yet Rodney and I have reached the conclusion that it just might!  

About 8 weeks ago, Rodney's cell was changed, a routine occurrence every six months or so.  The cell Rodney was moved to was in pitiful shape.  The toilet was completely non-functional, due to the previous resident plugging it up with his red mesh belongings bag and numerous other items.  There was visible mold growing on one of the wall. If it was raining outside it was also raining in Rodney’s cell. 

As if all that was not bad enough, the saddest thing about the move was that Rodney had lost his sunset view from the single window in the cell.  Every visit, Rodney and I would talk about the state of his new confinement—how long it took to get the toilet fixed, the fact that he was sure they would do nothing about the mold or the "raining" ceiling and wall.  When I went to visit three weeks ago, Rodney recounted the most recent shakedown story, which happened while he was outside at rec. 

When you are not present during a shakedown, you have no way to "prove" if something is taken, so it's a very discomforting experience. Rodney got back to his cell and spent 3-4 hours putting his belongings back and tidying up the mess.  About five minutes after getting all that done, a C.O. comes by and tells Rodney, "Pack up all your stuff, you're being moved." As we talked about the incident, commenting on how strange it was that they moved him after only five weeks, suddenly we both looked at each other and pointed to the phone as in "Do you think, it could possibly be because of A/V monitoring?"  We laughed and gave the thumbs up—we had our upside!  

At this same visit, a random act of TDCJ staff kindness occurred, one that delighted both Rodney and me.  We were granted an additional 20 minutes of visiting time—a priceless gift!  We were informed that because it had taken over an hour for Rodney to be brought to the visiting area, we would be compensated with a 20 minute bonus. You could've knocked both of us over with a feather! 

Rodney still doesn't have his sunset view back.  However, his toilet works, there's no mold on the wall and, so far, a non-raining ceiling and wall!  I couldn't help thinking all the way home how much I (and I'd venture to say, most of us) take for granted in our lives.  Rodney's appreciation of the simple pleasures, as he calls them—a glimpse of the sunset, finding a leaf or bird feather in the rec yard, 20 extra minutes spent with a friend—leaves me in awe and wanting to do much better myself in the "appreciating" department. Thanks again, Soul Man.



Caitlin Adams is a resident of Bastrop, Texas.  After meeting the family of Texas death row prisoner Rodney Reed outside of their home in early 2011, she began writing with Rodney.  She has developed a friendship with Rodney's mother Sandra and his family in Bastrop, as well as making regular trips to death row to visit Rodney. 

After learning about the facts of Rodney's case, Caitlin has become an advocate for Rodney Reed – here we present Caitlin's story about her journey for justice.