What would you do if you had to walk a mile in my shoes?
Today I woke up to another day on Texas death row and and began my morning with the usual routine which includes reading a daily devotional to help me focus my mind and go through my day more aware and mindful of what I say and do. The missive today involved the writer’s son who participated in a, “homeless simulation”, during which the young man spent 3 days and 2 nights on the streets of a city sleeping outside in freezing temperatures, with no food, or money or shelter having to rely on the kindness of others for his basic needs. One of these days the only thing he had to eat was a sandwich bought by a stranger who saw the young man asking for stale bread at a fast food restaurant.
The young man later said that this experience was one of the hardest things he had ever done, yet profoundly impacted his outlook on others.
When I read this I was very surprised that there was such a thing as a “homeless simulation” project. And upon reading about it it made perfect sense and I knew how it would help other caring souls get a real world experience at living on the streets. Then my mind jumped to apply this idea to Texas death row. What if there was a Texas death row simulation? What if you could sign up to spend 3 days and nights on Texas death row and experience this extreme life that I’ve lived for 21 years now? what would you think when on the first day you were process in and given one pair of underwear, socks, and one-piece jump suit with black canvas and rubber shoe to wear on your feet? Then put in a cell with nothing except a 6-inch thick cotton filled plastic mattress, 2 sheets, bath towel, wash cloth, roll of toilet paper, toothbrush, small tube of toothpaste and a tiny piece of soap? The soap and toilet paper must last 7 days, the tube of toothpaste and a toothbrush, 2 months! The eating utensils you are given are a small disposable plastic spoon, and an 8oz. Styrofoam cup That’s it – that is all the “necessities” the state issues and that you will receive for your entire stay be it 3 days or 20 years. How would that effect your psyche? would this initial taste of reality on death row drive you mad and push over a cliff? As the next morning rolled around you are served breakfast at 3am and given 3 hard cold pancakes, apple sauce, oatmeal and one cup of lukewarm watered down coffee. What would you think? Then at 5:30am, when the guard comes around to ask you if you wanted out of your solitary confinement cell for recreation, what would you say? Would you be willing to leave the cell and go to the day-room which is a 20 X 40 feet monkey cage and have to talk to people you did not know? Maybe 1 or t 2 guys. Or maybe 5 or more? In the meantime what do you think you would do for the 4, 6, 8 hours you would have to wait until it was your turn to get out of your cage? How do you cope with having nothing in your cell while you waited? No book, no writing supplies. no radio to listen to and distract yourself from the fact that you are in a solitary confinement cell on Texas death row? When you finally get out of your cell and go into the day-room you begin to meet the guys around you and instead of encountering a bunch of mindless killers. you meet a group of guys who, because you are the new person on death row have come together and collected items you would need to begin your journey in this new age death camp. And in fact when you leave the day-room you would take with you a large nylon mesh bag full of items given to you by fellow Texas death row prisoners: writing supplies, food, coffee, a large plastic cup, a large plastic spoon, a few novels. soap. shampoo, deodorant. shower shoes, a large tube of toothpaste, gym shorts, t-shirt, underwear and socks. All the things you would need to get started in love on death row. How would that effect you? Would you not be moved to tears by the amazing kindness from strangers in such an awful situation? How about the wait for shower? You would then begin a wait for 5 or 6 more hours and if you are lucky you would be given your turn to shower before 10pm that night, grateful that you now have soap and shampoo to properly bathe and clean; socks and boxers to wear after your shower. you wash yours dirty underwear and socks by hand while there for 45 minutes). Then you are at last escorted back to your cell by the guards, the wait is not over just yet. You have to wait on mail to be passed out by the guards AFTER they have showered every prisoner who were still waiting their turn (usually 40 to 50 guys, so your waiting will be till after 11:30 pm, if you are lucky.
Now they have passed out the mail and magically, you have gotten a jpay from the person you love the most; how do you think you would feel? Would be happy because that special someone is thinking of you and makes time in their life to stop, and send a jpay saying, “hey I love you and I care”? Or would you melt into a puddle because you’re in a cage on Texas death row? What if the one you loved most told you they would send you a jpay and you KNOW did as promised but these devils did not give it to you. So the only thing that was allowing you to keep it together was denied you. What would that do to your mental state? After the first 24 hours, would you be ready to give up this simulation after getting a taste of my extreme life filled with stress and anxiety? Do you think you could make it through the 3 days and nights you signed up for? That was what come to mind when I read the message this morning. I also thought of other scenario you might experience as a “veteran” on Texas death row. What if you made a “friend”, here and the friend asks to borrow something of value, lets say $20 in postage stamps, which is often used a currency in prison and on death row. And because you thought this person was a good guy you loan it to him. Remember, you have no job so you are not paid, nor does the government give you money and the only funds you get come from family and friends who send you money. Thus, each $1 on death row is equal to $10+ in the free world. But instead of being a good guy, he’s a bad guy and intentionally finds a reason to start a fight with you. He cusses you out and tells you you’re screwed! He’s not paying you anything back! To make matters worse this guy puts urine in a shampoo bottle and sprays you with it for the hell of it. What would you do? Would you be so angry you would vow to take revenge on this person the first change you get? Would you follow the rules here, especially Rule #3 : Always get revenge? Or would you be able to turn the other cheek and let the issue go? How would you handle the situation of someone being a tough guy, a bully on death row? Or how about you get a visit and because on Texas death row the visitors always arrive before the prisoners is taken to the visitation [except for Saturday night visits] room and see it is your beautiful sister, or girlfriend or best friend who is a lady? And as you begin to talk to them you see something is off with your loved one and you ask them what’s wrong? And she tells you the guy who was in the booth next to the one you are now in waiting to go back to his cell, engaged her in conversation ultimately urging her to contact him and begin a relationship with him. You know who this person is, you saw him when you were put into the visit booth and he is housed in the same area as you are. What do you do then? Would you take that fact for what it is in regards to the rules on Texas death row ; disrespect and proceed to follow Rule #3 to the fullest? Because now it is not only you involved, it’s also someone you love a great deal! What would you do? I think of these things and how there are a million different scenarios a person can go thorough in this devil’s little workshop called Texas death row. I wonder what a, “normal person” might think of it all if they could go through a death row simulation and live the kind of extreme life I’ve lived for 2 decades, for just a few days? Would they understand me a little better? would they be driven insane and never be able to recover? would their outlook on people like me be forever profoundly impacted by such an experience? These are the kinds of thoughts I have today as I sit in my cage on Texas death row and record my reflections on the “what ifs” that come to mind.
LOVE PEACE HOPE!
Charles D. Flores #999299
Texas death row.
August 13, 2019.