All posts by Travis Runnels

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

New Year’s Eve

Prison lines, prison rhymes,
There has to be better times.

Every day a grind, so hard to shine
In a 9×12 all my time.

A king with no crown,
That has a permanent frown.

Surrounded by music,
Without any sound.

The void filled with brown,
Same color as the ground.

Nothing around, hidden above ground,
Left so alone, within cells made of stone.


Travis Runnels, is a published author, and is currently working on his second novel.  He lives on Death Row.  He prepared the above poem for submission on New Year’s Eve, 2017.

Travis Runnels #999505
3872 FM 350
Livingston, TX 77351

The Smell Of Rain On Death Row

My earliest memories are from when I was five or six, maybe younger.  We had a side porch and when it was raining outside, my brother, cousins, and I would sing out at the rain, “Rain, rain, go away, come again another day.”  There is a smell that rain gives off, and I can’t name it, but it is the same scent I can smell when it rains where I am now.

I carry a scar with me from back then, too.  When I was little, I fell asleep on the couch, which had a shelf over it, holding a mini stereo.  The cord was hanging down, and I was such a wild sleeper that I got tangled in the cord and pulled the stereo down on my head, splitting my ear open.   I don’t remember that part, but I remember how they had to hold me down at the hospital to stitch my ear up because I was terrified of needles.

My heart feels sorrow when I think back to those memories now, knowing that most of the people from that life are gone.  I wish I could go back there, to the side porch.

Sitting on death row, you think about a lot of things.  Having a death sentence is just that – having it – until the time comes when there is a very real possibility an execution date could be given.  That’s when the term ‘the shit hits the fan’ becomes part of the equation.  That’s when the wondering starts working on you, the thinking and trying to figure out what’s what in this life you have lived so far.

Sometimes I want to know what’s to come, but other times I don’t.  There are times when I think about death so much that it becomes like a physical being, filling the space around me and pressing down on my soul.  It’s then that the nervousness threatens to consume me.  When I lay down at night I close my eyes and slow my breathing and try to feel it, the nothingness, a sleep from which I will never wake up.

But, I still have to shake it off.  Consciousness is all I’ve ever known.  Smelling the rain is what I know.

Travis Runnels, is a published author, who is currently working on his second novel.

Travis Runnels #999505
3872 FM 350
Livingston, TX 77351

Day of Silence

It is October 18, 2017, and on this day I will not talk.  I cannot talk and have not talked for the entire day.  Silence is my voice, my method of communication.  A way for me to see, know and realize what is going on around me.  It is the day of an execution.

I want to be as one in understanding and knowing today could never be a regular, normal day like tomorrow or the day before this one.  For me, to act in any way like it is, would be insane on my part and ignoring my own situation, that of being confined with a death sentence hanging over my head.  It’s not me today, but the possibility is there that it could be me in the future.  So, it is through the condemned that I see everyone around me living in their cells.

Each day we have a responsibility to realize the reality of our circumstances.  If we come to the point of rationalizing an execution day as normal and just another day, we come into acceptance of this being okay, justifying our own execution or death sentence through embracing an execution day as a day to be normalized.

My silence toward prisoners and guards keeps my mind on the reality that we are all here to be executed.  That should never be forgotten.  Until I’m not in this situation, I can think no other way.


Travis Runnels, is a published author, who is currently working on his second novel.

Travis Runnels #999505
3872 FM 350
Livingston, TX 77351

What Are The Things I See?

What is the view from inside my cell, what are the things I see?

I see the walls, with their peeling paint and scribbled words left behind by hands that made this cell their home before me.

There are tiny squares that make up the door frame, and I can sometimes try to make out was is happening just beyond my reach.

Standing on top of a stack of books, I can look out the window located just about at the top of the cell. Seeing off into the distance over the razor wire, there are guard towers and buildings inside the prison fencing.

I can look in the stainless steel wall around the sink and toilet combo and see my reflection gaze back at me in its shiny surface.  I look and wonder just how many images and memories are stored in that steel, pictures of faces that have looking into it, staring with their eyes full of different hopes and dreams.

This is my reality, my view of the world as I’ve come to know it over the years, enclosed by four square walls of the dullest white.


Travis Runnels, is a published author, who is currently working on his second novel.

Travis Runnels #999505
3872 FM 350
Livingston, TX 77351

Vigil On The Row

Another domino is falling, to be toppled over by a substance injected into its core, within days to be marked by a grave stone in memory of who it was and what it represented in this lifetime.

For hours it’s a waiting game, defined by the unknown, to live or to die, what will be their fate beyond this day, these minutes, each and every second that passes?

Everyone is holding their breath and wondering with conflicting emotions.  Family members are embracing hope that humanity will come to the forefront, and they will not have to mourn this day.  The victim’s family also wait, but with anticipation and a different kind of hope that is laced with pain, anger and vengeance, wishing for a twisted form of justice that will never bring the closure they seek.

Guards wait with the indifference of those who’ve done this before and, just as factory workers view boxing up goods for shipment, they glance at their watches, waiting for the shift to be over and thinking of going home.  They are blind to the fact that a man’s life will be taken as part of their work shift, it’s become routine.

The clock continues ticking, later and later the day wears on and the sky begins to darken, the stars making an appearance, and the sun finally lays down to rest as darkness descends.  The street lights come on, and still, nothing is decided.  The cruelest part of it all becomes when there starts to form within the heart of the the condemned a false sense of hope that they will survive, they will get a stay of execution.

Even the family begins to hope with the passage of time and no news coming.  For whatever reason could there be such a delay in such a monumental decision?  Everyone gets antsy within their own thoughts that are all based upon what they hope to come out of the situation.

Then the ax drops, all the lights and power of hope are extinguished with the ring of a phone.   The execution is to proceed as planned.  No stay, no last second decision after so many hour of nothingness, and with the finality of a last breath, the leather straps and restraints are buckled and locked on the body of the condemned.

This is the hard core reality of legalized, state sanctioned murder.


Travis Runnels, is a published author, who is currently working on his second novel.

Travis Runnels #999505
3872 FM 350
Livingston, TX 77351

Visiting Room

If I could touch your hand
I would caress your soul.

The glass between us
Like a gap in time
Longing for what I see.

A strong desire for contact
Petal soft feel of skin
That is your touch.

Through the glass I gaze
The beat of my heart reverberating
Letting you feel the tremble of my want.

My hands are not tied
Locked away into an existence of loneliness
Devoid of the physical realm of life.