Around the World...

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


Do you remember all those basketball games one played in the back yard or at the park?  HORSE, was a favorite at my house growing up, 21, Around the World, 1 on 1, 2 on 2, etc. Hours and hours were spent having fun, skill building, establishing bragging rights in the family, the neighborhood.

Recreation time at the Polunsky Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is a daily activity, provided the unit is not on lockdown. Lockdowns happen 4 times a year and other times if the TDCJ staff feels it is warranted.  A lockdown means prisoners are confined to their cells 24/7.  Lockdowns can last anywhere from a week to several weeks.  In the case of very inclement weather a prisoner can opt not to go for outdoor rec. The rec yard has two basketball "cages," they are right next to each other, separated (of course) by a fence to prevent any type of physical contact between inmates.  Sometimes it happens that Rodney is out in the rec yard at the same time as another inmate who may be so inclined to accept Rodney's Around the World invitation/challenge.  These two hours at rec are the most social interaction, except for visits, that Rodney and other inmates get, so the days when you are not at rec alone have a special significance.

Just such a day happened recently.  A fellow inmate about 6 years Rodney's junior and about half a foot shorter agreed to an Around the World match that turned into a two hour marathon.  Now, the rules of the game include the penalty for losing - this day the penalty was that the loser does 10 pushups.  The story goes: Rodney did about 300 pushups that day!  Let's see, that means Rodney lost 30 rounds of Around the World - yikes, my arms hurt just thinking about it.  He was able to make a bit of a comeback when they changed games to First to 10 (whoever makes 10 baskets first wins), thankfully!

The sheer joy, exhilaration of the game, the challenge, the competition, the interaction was so present on Rodney's face as he shared the story, the laughter that burst forth when he said "300 pushups" was so spontaneous and genuine, that one could see the memory lived on for him.

Keep working on those skills, Soul Man, you will need them when you get home!


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.