August 5, 2011 Visit With Rob
Perfect Balance In
An Imperfect World
By Dawn Bremer
Immediately upon arriving I learned that the District Warden was on site at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston, Texas, where Robert Will is on Death Row. This explained repeated turns through the metal detector, requiring me to go back, remove all of my rings, and go through again until there was no ‘chime.’ Ah, yes. I was going to have to be on my best behavior. It was that kind of day at the prison.
I waited an hour before Rob was brought down to the tiny visitation cage. Meanwhile I purchased food and drinks for him. Visitors are allowed to bring $25 in change for the vending machines. This sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? When you see the prices, you understand quickly that it can occasionally run close on being just enough. Since fresh fruits and vegetables never seem to find their way to Rob or any of the people incarcerated there, $3.25 for a container containing about 1-1/2 cups of iceberg lettuce, a couple slices of cucumber, one grape tomato, and some chopped lunch meat seems reasonable to be able to provide some nutrition. Rob arrived and I saw that his wrists did not bear the same deep impressions from the handcuffs as they had on a previous visit. We exchanged initial pleasantries. I mentioned the absence of energy drinks in the machines, which he had requested. Rob informed me there is a new captain who had all of those drinks removed from the vending machines. Inmates did not need them! This new captain is a bully, running roughshod over the inmates and those who work with him. This man worries me — the embodiment of, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Rob and I discussed the ongoing search for a large law firm to aid in his case. I relayed the recent conversations I’d had with the ABA Death Penalty Representation Program in Washington, DC. They had received the case documents I sent, have reviewed them, and are actively trying to recruit a firm to take Rob’s case. The difficulty is that law firms are not jumping to take pro bono cases, and in this economy they are even more reluctant. However, the ABA Death Penalty Representation Program actively continues in its efforts and the interest in Rob’s case is strong and sincere.
As well, I continue to explore other avenues toward locating a large law firm to take Rob’s case pro bono. This is not an easy task and one that I pursue zealously. For any of us who are blessed to have Rob in our lives, his spirit is infectious and inspires all of us who support him to pursue everything ‘zealously.’
During our visit, Rob had a sneezing fit. I asked if he was feeling okay. Rob described the vents in the cells, how filthy they are, and, subsequently, the air they emit. He said he has covered the vent in his cell before with a white cloth, and a few days later removed this cloth which was covered in black filth. This is the air he breathes.
At one point, I noticed Rob make eye contact with someone behind me. The tall man lumbering behind the visitors was the warden. This was the first time I had seen him on the grounds. Since the warden claims to have an open door policy, Rob asked that I visit the warden’s office on my way out. “There is no hot water on F-Pod,” Rob told me. I was floored. Lack of hot water to an entire Pod needs to be reported by a visitor to the warden? How do you not notice there is no hot water, such a basic necessity? How long, I wondered, would the warden or any of the correctional officers be willing to go without hot water in their own homes? For how long would they consider that to be acceptable?
On my way out, I stopped in at the warden’s office, but he was not in. There were three women in the small waiting area: a secretary behind the desk, an employee sitting in a guest chair, and another uniformed employee standing to the side. I asked the secretary if the warden was available and she said he was out of the office. She asked if I wanted to leave a message so I told her about the lack of hot water on F-Pod. She took down Rob’s TDC number, looked up my name on the computer in his records, and then wrote a note about the situation. I’m not entirely filled with confidence that the note will make it anywhere beyond being a source of random doodling during times of boredom for whoever sits at that desk.
At this moment, I am looking at a picture of Rob and me taken at the Polunsky Unit during our visit. The old saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” I never gave that much thought, really, until today. I never realized how completely wrong that statement is. I am looking at the image of Robert Will and a thousand words could never even come close to describing or conveying the beauty of this man — his mind, his soul, his essence, his dignity. He is a father, a son, a brother, and friend. Rob is strength and grace in perfect balance.
But Rob Will is, above all else, innocent! We need to shout that loud and long to make it heard. We need to make the justice system listen. We need more voices so that Rob’s voice can be heard. We need to picture Rob and where he is and never stop until he is free again, the innocent man we know him to be.
Pax e bene,