My religion


“This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophy. Our brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness” – Dalai Lama

Everyone knows that life has its highs and lows, its mountains and valleys. Whether you’re in solitary confinement on Texas death row or living in New York City, we’ve all experienced this. Whether you have millions in a Swiss bank account or are an indigent prisoner, we’ve all been through ups and downs.

When I think about my life, there have been plenty of highs and lows, especially when you consider that I’m on Texas death row for a crime I did not commit. And during these 20 years of incarceration, life has taught me many lessons which have helped me endure and make the most of my life. So much of my quality of life depends on my perspective on it. I am by choice a positive, optimistic, joyful person who works at being at peace within myself. It’s not always easy though, when the guards leave me locked in a 5ft.x10ft. shower for an hour, I’m not happy and it’s difficult to be at peace then. But for the most part, I am a positive joyful person and one of the keys to maintaining this outlook on life is through being kind to others.

As you might expect, there are many people here who are the opposite of what I strive to be. Being locked in a cell the size of your bathroom will do that to you, especially if you can’t find it within you to do better. When you are a prisoner on Texas death row with no friends or family to support you it’s easy to be negative. When you allow the side effects of solitary confinement to cause you to withdraw and never leave your cell; that can make you cynical and pessimistic, always seeing the worst in every situation. And the evil thing about this is that the devils who created the administrative-segregation confinement that’s used in Texas know it will do this to those who are caged for years, even decades in this manner. But in their minds, a prisoner with a broken spirit is easier to manage and control.

I know what solitary confinement does to a prisoner and even then it’s a struggle to not let its effects get the best of me. But many men here don’t know and thus they have no idea what is happening to them. Whether it’s a prisoner who’s been here for 25 years or just arrived on Texas death row, if you don’t know, you don’t know.

Since being back on Polunksy from Dallas county, I’ve been extra mindful of the fact that many men struggle with keeping their head up day in day out here. And believe me I know why – this place is awful! And because I’m aware of this, it is my task to make the most of the situation and if possible help those around me. If I am able to put myself to work for the good and help those who are in pain and suffering while I’m dealing with my own long suffering then I have done a great good. And the wonderful thing about helping another when you are also in need of help is both of you come away from the exchange feeling better and just a little bit healed.

The other day I went to the dayroom on the other side of the pod. I try to get out of my cell at least 4 times a week because my mind and body need it. I always have a good time when I leave my cell, making it a point to smile and laugh and have as much of a good time as I can. Doing this makes me feel better as laughter and smiling has healing within it. I’ve never smiled and laughed and had a good time with the guys here and not felt good afterward.

So I was in the middle of doing this when I happen to look over towards the other dayroom and to my surprise I see a friend named Robert. My first reaction was, “Hey! What are you doing over there?”! I said this because he rarely comes out of his cell. He’s not a bad guy, he just doesn’t come out of his cell much and is withdrawn. So it was good to see him out and I immediately began talking to him. We began with the usual topics here, what have we been up to, how is life going etc. And before you know it I was smiling and laughing with Robert. And it was great to see him smile and laugh and enjoy himself and for those few moments, the doom and gloom of this terrible place called Texas death row faded away and it was just two friends sharing positive healing energy. At one point I told him this, that it was wonderful to get out of the cell and talk with friends and smile and laugh and enjoy life. He agreed and that made me feel very good. Before I knew it, rec’ was over and I said farewell to Roberto.

This morning I saw my friend coming out his cell on his way to the shower and when he saw me his face lit up and he smiled and said to me, “Hey! How you doing?!”. Robert still had a piece of that positive energy we shared a few days ago and that was so good to see. That’s the power of kindness at work and only underscores how important it is for us to be as kind as possible to each other here.

There’s a newish guy in my section called Bill. He’s been here since November but I did not meet him until mid-January when I come back to Polunsky unit. So I’ve not had a chance to share how to “do time” with him, basic prison etiquette – things you ought and ought not to do to help you fit in and make your life as easy as possible. For some people, I think that is natural but for others it’s not and someone has to tell them.

I’ve seen how Bill conducts himself and knew that I needed to talk to him and share what I’ve learned from doing time on Texas death row. This place is often cold and unsympathetic and little things will cause what others think about you in general to be negative. If you choose not to come out of your cell for recreation, guys around here will forget about you. If you do not go to shower guys will get the impression that you are an unclean person and have nothing to do with you. If your clothes are dingy and dirty, guys will not like you because you are a filthy person.

Bill has unfortunately gotten off on the wrong foot because of these things. But it’s something he can correct if he chooses to and Bill’s been on my mind because of this.

Thursdays are my housing section’s outdoor rec’ days and I was in my cell listening to the USA’s Universities Championship Basketball Tournament when I heard the guards a few cells away from me take someone out for rec. When I looked I saw it was Bill. When I realized he’d gone to rec I had to think about it for a few seconds – I knew it was the last person to go out for rec and I’d planned on staying in to listen to the games, but here was my opportunity to get outside with Bill. So when the guards come back for me to go to rec I was ready and out I went.

It was a warm Texas afternoon and the day was beautiful. After the guards had removed the handcuffs from my wrists and left us out on the outdoor rec yard alone I began the conversation with Bill. I asked him how was he doing and did he need anything? He replied that he was doing fine and had what he needed. He has family in the free world and they are by his side supporting him. After a few minutes I looked at my new friend and said to him with a smile, “I came out here to see if you were crazy or not! And you’re not crazy!” Ha! As soon as I said that we both laughed and smiled and from then on we spent over 3 hours together laughing and having a good time. This allowed me to tell him some basic things. Like how people will forget about him if he never comes out of his cell for recreation. That when he gets to thinking, “I don’t need to leave my cell – everything I need is in here, why go to the dayroom?”, he needs to go out more than ever! That was the solitary confinement messing with his head and he needed to come out. I suggested he come out 2-3 times a week and get to know people. I also suggested that he go to shower every other day at minimum because people will think he was unclean, “funky” if he doesn’t. The same thing about washing his clothes, I explained to him how to clean his cell at least every other day and when he did this to wash his clothes with hot water and detergent bought from the commissary. He goes to commissary and has washing detergent. He took in everything I shared with him and understood I was talking to him about these things to help him fit in here. I made that understood from the beginning. Soon enough rec was over and we went back to our cells, I felt good about my conversation with my new friend Bill and felt like he listened to me and agreed it was better to fit in and be part of our world – Texas death row society.

So I smiled that evening – when time to shower came, I saw him come out for his turn. I will continue to help Bill try to fit in and do what I can whenever he needs a friend. I’ll make sure I am as kind to him as possible and to everyone else I meet. We can’t go wrong with kindness!

Charles D. Flores N°999299

Texas Death Row

March 16, 2018.