Visit Day

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

As of this writing, injustice time 132,053 hours. 5,502 days.

Visit days usually begin at 7:30 a.m. when we hit the road heading due east — trip distance 174 miles. Our only stop on the way to Livingston, is our bathroom/breakfast stop in Caldwell. Then it's on to Bryan, Huntsville, Onalaska and lastly Livingston.

As you drive FM350 South toward the Polunsky Unit, a sprawling gray cinderblock supermax prison complex, we pass homes, churches, a mobile home park, a restaurant, a Knights of Columbus hall, a red and white water tower, and then we arrive at the entrance to where Rodney is imprisoned.

There is a checkpoint before entering the complex parking lot. At this point a C.O. records the license plate number of the vehicle, as well as the driver's license number of the driver, and Rodney's name and prisoner number. He then does a car search, from under the hood to the trunk and all points in between. The C.O. then assigns you a number that you report to another C.O. on leaving the complex. Next stop — the parking lot!

Almost nothing can be taken into the complex, no cell phones, no paper money, no food or beverage items. Upon entering the final checkpoint before entering the complex, they allow each adult visitor (only 2 adults permitted at a visit, children under 16 are not allowed) to convert paper money into coins using the coin machine provided, $25.00 max. The money is used to purchase food/beverage items from the seriously overpriced vending machines in the visiting room.

Once money has been changed, the next step entails removing all metal items and shoes, a trip through the metal detector, a thorough pat down from head to foot, an examination of the bottoms of feet, and turning pockets inside out. Removed items are run through an X-ray machine. We then put ourselves all back together, turn in our driver's licenses in exchange for a blue visitor slip and death row visitor ID tags.

We then proceed through a locked door, then a locked gate, and walk the one and a half blocks to the unit itself. Another block to the final 2 locked doors before entering the visiting room. We turn in our blue visitor slip to the C.O. staffing the visit area and are assigned a cubicle, and depending on how busy it is, we either purchase food for Rodney right away or later when the C.O. has time. The rules for purchasing items for Rodney are stringent. Only TDCJ staff are permitted to touch food/beverage items and we are only permitted one trip to the vending machines for Rodney. Needless to say, we've gotten very good at knowing Rodney's favorite things! Rodney's snacks are then placed in bags by the staff, passed through another locked door to another staff person, who then places the snacks in the corresponding cubicle on the other side of the Plexiglas.

This last visit, we were able to delight Rodney with both an orange and a banana — quite a boon! Some of Rodney's favorites are ham and cheese sandwiches, kosher dill chips, chocolate cream pie, honey buns, pecan pie, oranges, green salad and most definitely bananas! Coca Cola is his beverage of choice.

We will often chat with people we've come to know while we wait for Rodney to be brought out to the visiting area. The wait on a good day could be as short as 30 minutes (a rare occurrence) and has been as long as an hour and 20 minutes. The average is an hour. When Rodney arrives he is placed in a locked cubicle and his handcuffed hands are then put through a small slot in the cubicle door to remove the handcuffs for the duration of the visit.

We pick up our respective phones and our 2 hour visit officially begins! A 12 hour day for those precious 2 hours — quite the bargain!

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.