Hope

Doom and despair, agony and loneliness,
they were my days and my companions for years.
Rage consumed my soul.

My mind screamed for a way to be heard,
long days locked in a box.
The stigma of a convicted murder.

The case false, but conviction so true,
no one cared what I had to say.
The courts turned a cold shoulder.

I almost fell into the void of no return,
hope a word or just a thought?
No, it’s a way of life for me.

Walk in those shoes… who, what, where?
All light at the end of that dark tunnel.
My life started to change.

You gave me a voice to be heard,
I have a voice again.
People are listening now.

I am a person again, with a story to be told,
I write and cast off the clouds of darkness.
I am alive again, through my published words.

To write heals my soul,
patches my torn spirit.
Justice may again be within my grasp.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR.  Reggie West is serving life without the possibility of parole.  He can be reached at:
Reggie West #FE-6643
P.O. Box 945
Marienville, PA 16239

So, What Do I Do Now?

Remember when you were seven years old?  Take a trip with me, humor me if you will. You’re seven.  You live in middle class America, and you’ve been strung along in the fantasy that Santa Claus exists.

You’ve spent twelve months cleaning your room, brushing your teeth and combing your hair.  You’ve refrained from pulling girls’ pigtails and throwing pebbles at them – or spit balls.  You’ve eaten your vegetables, even broccoli, and you’ve been as invisible as a seven year old boy can be – because you’ve been told, if you’re good, Santa Claus might bring you that new bike you’ve been asking – no, begging – for.

Then Christmas morning comes – you run down the stairs and look under the tree – no bike.  You run to the garage and look where your old bike still sits, just to check.   Your old bike…

By now, you’re frantic.  You’ve been good for a year – a whole year!  You not only deserve a new bike, you earned it – so where is it?

I’ve been ‘good’ for the last five years, twenty-five if truth be told.  I’ve brushed my teeth, combed my hair, cleaned my room.  I’ve done every conceivable thing I’ve been told to do by my handlers.  I was told that if I did these things – which I would have done anyway – I’d be released on parole.

Simple enough, right?

No bike.  No bike for another two years – January, 2020.

After seventeen years of being on my best behavior (no problem with me), I’m set off from going home.  Now, in the grand scheme of things, 730 days isn’t a long period of time, when you’ve already done 9,125 days, 720 is a drop in the bucket.

However, I’m not well.  As a matter of fact, my health is declining at an accelerated rate.  I’m 57 years old, not seven.  There are days when I barely have the energy, the strength, the will power to get out of my bunk, yet I still do.

There are days when I don’t feel like putting all my stuff away, and playing the compliance game.  For years, I’d run a tab.  Then I’d get $20 and make a list out to go and buy hygiene products, stamps, maybe a snack or two and a diet coke for my dog, Sparky.

I’d get the Diet Coke – $.40.  $19.60 was owed to the state.

I lived like that for years – until Evelyn found me, inspired me, nurtured me and blessed me a thousand times over.  So, for the last two years, I haven’t had to play ‘The Company Store’ game.  But, time marches on, people get tired, tired of waiting for you to come home.  They sometimes forget about you.  I understand this all too well.  I’ve been waiting for that bike since I was 48.

Next parole date is two years from now.  Nothing has changed.  I’m still the same good humored, good hearted person I’ve been all my life – except for that five minute period where I lost control.  I’m not going to change these things – ever…

ABOUT THE AUTHOR  ‘Shipwrecked, Abandoned, Misunderstood’, but he still has the things his father instilled in him – humility, respect and love.  In spite of 25 years behind bars, he continues to wake up every day holding on to his humanity and on a mission to change the world for the better.

John Green #671771
C.T. Terrell Unit A346
1300 FM655
Rosharon, TX 77583

Buried Emotions

There is nothing I can imagine more terrifying than a parole interview.  All the time under your belt means nothing in those brief moments.  Your entire life depends upon how you present yourself, how you project, body language. It’s all on the line, and you might not get a chance to see the review process again for God knows how long.

I’ve waited five long years for each of the last two.  That’s 1,825 days between each, or 43,800 hours.   It is 2,628,000 minutes – or, yes, 159,680,000 seconds.  But, who’s counting?  I certainly have been…

At the interview, you are in an awkward situation if you have amassed an impressive resume that includes certificates of completion in areas of Bible Study, Vocational Classes, Self Improvement, and Educational or Rehabilitation Programs, such as Substance Abuse and Anger Management.  With that approach, you risk looking so desperate to go home, that you’ll do anything to get there, like an actor in a movie playing the perfect part.  When the cameras go off, will you go back to being the criminal they perceive you to be?

If you sit in your chair and do nothing, you might appear as if you don’t care about your future and you do not wish to go home.  You’re seen as being comfortable in your little space.

If you appear calm, cool, and collected, does that mean you are unremorseful, cold and calculated…

If you pour your heart out, you’re seen as over emotional, not in control, capable of doing something similar to what brought you there in the first place.

Put simply, you’re damned if you do, and you’re damned if you don’t.

All I’ve ever had was the truth.  All I’ve ever shared was the truth.

There’s no way to sugar coat the worst three minutes of your life.  Those three minutes that affected the last 25 years, not only for yourself but your family and friends – those you hold dear.

It is said that regret is such a waste of time.  That you cannot change the past and therefore to spend hours, months and years regretting something you can’t change is fruitless.  I disagree.

To forget the past is to chance repeating it. That isn’t an option for me.  I made the worst mistake anyone can make, to ever consider forgetting it, is to chance repeating it.  I will hold tight to these regrets until the day I die.  But, what has bound me to these emotions will not affect the way I feel, think or react.  My lesson, bad or good, must be maintained as a reference.

I’m just a man.  Men make mistakes.  Good men make bad mistakes.  Good men know how important it is to not make the same mistakes again.  That’s what I told them, from my heart.  And if they set me off again, for however long they determine – that’s what I’ll tell them again – from the heart.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR  ‘Shipwrecked, Abandoned, Misunderstood’, but he still has the things his father instilled in him – humility, respect and love.  In spite of 25 years behind bars, he continues to wake up every day holding on to his humanity and on a mission to change the world for the better.

John Green #671771
C.T. Terrell Unit A346
1300 FM655
Rosharon, TX 77583

Found Faith

Locked in a cell with nothing but pain,
Thoughts of injustice running through my brain.
Sitting on Texas Death Row, waiting to die
For a crime I’ve not done, you might ask why…

How did it start, where will it end?
Why did this horrible nightmare begin?
Why did she lie and condemn me to death?
I’ll ask this question with my last breath.

I understand she was scared and alone,
But to blame it on me was wrong.
So, now I lay behind these walls of concrete and steel,
Waiting for justice on my appeal.

Kept in solitary confinement in this man made hell,
Empty inside, no longer a man, only a shell.
Missing my children all these years,
Shattered dreams, lost hopes, silent tears.

Angry for all the years I’ve lost,
Found faith for that man on the cross.
If not for the lord to help ease the pain,
The cruelness of this place would drive me insane.

When my day comes and it’s my turn to go,
There’s something I want everyone to know.
Life is short and often tragic,
Find the Lord, you’ll find life’s magic.

God bless you and me!

AUTHOR’S NOTE:  It’s eighteen years later…
I’ve lost the faith.

Troy J. Clark #999351
Polunsky Unit D.R.
3872 FM 350 South
Livingston, TX 77351

Death Row – A Double Edged Sword

When you first arrive off the transport van, you are interviewed by the ‘Death Row Classification Committee’, handed a rule book and told that you are expected to follow the rules and policies.  Just a few days before, you were condemned to die by lethal injection because they believe you can’t be rehabilitated and are incapable of following any rules.

You spend the next twenty years being a model prisoner.  It won’t help you on appeal.  They don’t want to know if you could have been rehabilitated.  They don’t want to know the person you’ve become is not the man they labeled as ‘incapable of following rules or functioning in society’.

If you were to violate every rule, they would want to know.  I ask myself over and over – Is it possible to disagree with my confinement, yet accept the rules placed on me by it?  What does it mean to be in agreement with your incarceration?

Regardless of how much I ponder this, I know it’s not about what they say or do with me but what I see in myself, the dignity I live with, and the behavior I expect and look for from myself.  What kind of growth can I reflect upon myself, what is it I believe I am capable of living like?  Regardless of what the courts or prison officials tell me, I have to maintain a certain level of respect and accountability for my behavior and actions.  It’s a reflection of who I am, and nothing beyond that matters.

The sword may have two edges, but I have no worries of either cutting me, for my actions are my armor of protection…

Travis Runnels, is a published author, and is currently working on his second novel.  He lives on Death Row.

Travis Runnels #999505
3872 FM 350
Livingston, TX 77351

Herman

While Mongo was the most interesting and misunderstood of my acquaintances since incarceration, Herman had to be the sweetest of my friends.  He was at least twenty years my senior and probably the closest thing to a father figure I’ve ever found in this place.  My own dad passed away in 1988.

Herman had a never ending love for all things Astros and Rockets.  If a game was on TV, he could be found in the dayroom with a cold drink or a cup of coffee, cheering or jeering at the screen.  That’s where I found Herman during the ‘94-‘95 season, when the Houston Rockets won their first world championship in basketball.

There he sat, surrounded by Rocket haters, watching Houston destroy Orlando in four games – a sweep.  I’ve watched and loved the Rockets since I was eight years old.  My Uncle Mike was stationed in San Diego at the time, and he took me to my first pro basketball game.  In their first two seasons, they were the San Diego Rockets, and they moved to Houston in 1970.  I’ve been a Houston Rockets fan ever since.

When I arrived, there was one Rockets fan watching the game – then there were two, Herman and I.  And so it began.  Over the next twenty years – off and on because they move fellas around like chess pieces in here – Herman and I would watch the Rockets and the Astros.  In between games, we’d play dominos (his game not mine, I can’t count fast enough).  When he made store, he’d buy coffee and cookies, and when I got money, I’d buy enough for two.  We laughed at and told the same jokes, over and over again, as if they were being told for the very first time.  Herman was my bud.

If I didn’t talk to anyone all day, I’d stop and talk to Herman for at least an hour.  We talked about everything.  He worked all his life in the oil fields and drew a pension.  When he retired at age 54, he drew SSI.  Herman was self sufficient.  Then he was given twenty years for his third DWI in ‘95.  He did 19 years, 6 months on that, and when they paroled him, they sent him to a drug rehab for six months before he finally got off paper.  Therefore, he served the entire sentence.

The system is full of guys like Herman.  It eats guys like Herman for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Guys like Herman are good for the bottom line.

Herman still writes me once a month, twice if he’s up to it.   I don’t miss many people, but I do miss my buddy.  I’m sure he’ll be okay though.  He’s a tough old bird.  We survived nineteen years and six months in here together, how could he not be?

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR  ‘Shipwrecked, Abandoned, Misunderstood’, but he still has the things his father instilled in him – humility, respect and love.  In spite of 25 years behind bars, he continues to wake up every day holding on to his humanity and on a mission to change the world for the better.

John Green #671771
C.T. Terrell Unit A346
1300 FM655
Rosharon, TX 77583