A LETTER FROM KENNETH REAMS

"For the past 25 years, I endured living under solitary confinement
with the mental and emotional stress of facing death.

In spite of this,  and against all odds,
I have managed to rehabilitate myself, and thrive

I did wrong as a kid, I’m no innocent . But I never killed.

On May 5 1993, in Pine Bluff Arkansas, my friend Alford and I set to rob a drive-through ATM with a single .32 pistol. Alford needed the money for his graduation’s cape and gown.
It turned out bad, terribly bad... Alford, in a panic state, shot and killed the victim.

The two of us were offered the same agreement: plead guilty and get a sentence of life without parole.
Alford Goodwin, the triggerman, took the plea and he was sentenced to life.
I didn’t wan’t their guilty deal. I hadn’t pulled the trigger! I thought the jury would recognize that.

Downtown Pine Bluff

Nevertheless in December of 1993,  I was sentenced to death by lethal injection.

I was a kid when that door closed on me. Many of my early days in prison were spent crying.
I was sitting alone in my cell, nights and days... crying from anger, regret, injustice, self pity.

Looking back, I now realize that those where moments of my spiritual cleaning and growth. Moments of resilience that gave me the willpower to push back...
the State of Arkansas trying to execute me for a murder that I had not actually committed.

For many years my mind was locked in the cell along with my body.
I didn't know by then what the sense of peace felt like in life.
Eventually, I learned how to unlock my mind and spirit ... and now

I am a true testament of the human will to fight.

A solitary confinement cell © E.Thomas The Guardian

 

The cell I've been locked away in the past two and a half decades is a tiny concrete box consisting of:
a shower whose water comes out everyday at exact 7pm (I cannot adjust its temperature... it’s either burning hot or too cold), a sink and toilet built together, a ventilation for air and heat, a table, a concrete bunk, a light fixture.

The box I live in is no bigger than the size of a parking space.

My physical contact with other humans has been completely cut off over the past 25 years.
The only time that I’m allowed to leave outside this box is during recreation time, health care calls, or visitation.

The mandatory prison policy is that I have « shackles placed around the ankles» and must be «restrained with handcuffs behind the back » before the electric door of my cell opens and I am escorted by two prison guards. In chains

«Recreation time» at Varner Unit Prison

Five days a week, for one hour, I am allowed to exercise and get fresh air in a single-man cage entirely made out of concrete and steal bars. That exercise space is much smaller than my actual cell.
This one hour period of "recreation time" is meant to help us release some of the mental pressure of our constant confinement.

Instead, many inmates simply refuse it... because it makes us feel like a caged animal, dehumanized.

They serve us breakfast daily at 2 a.m. in the morning.
When I stand on my bunk and look out the tiny window, the only thing I see is a brown brick wall.
This itself is torture.

Here, the everyday routine never changes. You eat the same exact bland tasting meals daily.
The lights are turned off and on at the same times, without your control.
The entire system is designed to destroy the morale fiber of normal people.

When I realized this, it gave me the inner courage to stand up and push back."

 
 

"I’m standing up.
And I will not give up. 

We were not created to bend under tyranny and injustice,
but to fight until our last breath for justice.
For me, and for all. "


I NEED YOUR HELP ON THIS FIGHT

 
 

Kenneth Reams
VARNER UNIT Death Row
Arkansas

 
 

 
 
 

KENNETH'S REAMS LIFE

 
 
Kenneth as a child in Pine Bluff Arkansas

Kenneth as a child in Pine Bluff Arkansas

As a native of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Kenneth Reams was born to a 15-year-old teen mom in 1974. His childhood in harsh poverty was defined by abuse, neglect, hardship, and later crime. For more than 24 years, Reams has lived on Arkansas’ death row in solitary confinement. Fighting against his execution and seeking for the truth to be heard.
Despite this hardship, Kenneth Reams has managed to become an artist, a poet, a writer, and the founder of the nonprofit organization Who Decides, Inc.

Who Decides, Inc. www.whodecidesinc.org is a national network of activists, volunteers and dedicated people working to educate the general public about the «practice and history» of capital punishment in the United States through various mediums of art.
The ultimate goal at Who Decides, Inc. is to establish a National Museum about Capital Punishment that will be devoted to collecting, studying, exhibiting, interpreting and preserving America’s extensive history on capital punishment.

Reams’ poetry has been published in several publications, he made the 2013 semi-final round of the National Amateur Poetry Competition and was second-place winner of the 2016 Lifeline Poetry Competition. He has spoken widely on the subject of solitary confinement and the death penalty at a number of universities and public forums.
 

His artistic work has been exhibited in venues in London, California, Texas, Arkansas, Ohio, North Carolina, and New York.
He has donated his art to support numerous organizations around the U.S such as Murder Victim’s Family for Reconciliation, the Heyman Center for The Humanities, and the National Association of Univer-sity Women -- Queens Branch.

Currently. Kenneth Reams is working on a book - Spoken Pen, a collection of prose, short stories, and poems by death row inmates, with on a stage monologue performance:
By Eighteen and on future art exhibits.