Prison

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


There are many different prisons. There are the jails, correctional facilities, supermaxes, for-profits, and entities run by the city, county, state and federal governments. Then there are the prisons of poverty, abusive relationships, drug addiction, war, racism, sexism, patriarchy, terminal illness, disabilities and myriad others. And then there is the prison of the mind.

How does someone cope with imprisonment? Oftentimes well, so long as he or she is not also imprisoned in the mind. When theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, who has lived with ALS for almost 40 years, completely paralyzed, unable to speak or eat and completely dependent on others for his physical needs, was asked about his life, he responded, "What more could I have wished for?" He had discovered something that John O'Donohue speaks about in his book To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings: "...Thus may your heart know the patience, That can draw infinity from limitation..." 

My dear friend Rodney Reed is an innocent man on Texas death row. I was diagnosed with ALS two and a half years ago. We both have "imprisonment" in common. He has a 6x9 cinderblock cell, handcuffs, and strip searches that confine him. Me, I have a body that day by day confines me. We are both sentenced to die. And oddly, neither of us is a "prisoner."

Would Rodney prefer being home with his family? Would I prefer climbing my beloved mountains? You betcha! And yet our freedom doesn't depend on those things. Rodney and I can look at each other without speaking a word and simply know this. We can say things to each other that if said to someone not "imprisoned," would bring befuddled, bemused consternation or confusion. 

There is a presence that happens when one is free from the imprisonment of the mind — "imprisoned" or not. Rodney and I meet in that presence. We help each other accept and appreciate the gifts of our "nows," of which there are many. We somehow intuitively know, as the Christian mystic Julian of Norwich claimed centuries ago, "All is well, all shall be well, all manner of things shall be well."

We help each other when we inevitably find ourselves "imprisoned" in the mind. We vent, we cry, we complain, we blame, we judge, and we rage. And in the presence, we find our way to peace, acceptance, willingness, joy and laughter — free, no longer imprisoned in the mind. I think we are coming to really know that walls, illness, and death do not make a prison.


 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.