A Death Row Prisoner Writes Flaunt About Jail and His Thoughts on the Word 'Eternal'

by Flaunt Intern


It’s hard to imagine a life without  freedom or any sense of control over your own destiny-- especially when your fate is in the hands of the court. This is the reality for many prisoners facing the death penalty in America.

For Harlem Lewis III, a simple traffic violation turned deadly in December of 2012 when he shot and killed a police officer trying to detain him and a bystander who tried to assist in the dispute. This incident permanently altered the trajectory of his life as he will spend the rest ofit on death row. 

In our most recent issue, Eternal, we asked Harlem Lewis III, 25 and facing death row for capital murder, what the word "Eternal" meant to him and the response we got was eye-opening. Lewis gives us a fresh perspective on life in prison, his idea of a perfect society, and the importance of staying positive in a difficult situation. 

Here is what he had to say: 

 I always wanted to go to California. Seems like its always something to do over there just like here in Texas. Like Houston, it's a very big city with many things to do. I would say I like the nature because I like camping, going on hike through the trails of the woods, the view of the beach during sunset and its much more that I love doing in Texas. I like to be in the city too because a lot of things happen in a city like Houston from concerts football, basketball games, going to clubs or bars with many celebrities in town. Just a lot of fun in the city, too. If I had a big dream house I would probably want it to be built like on a ranch far off from the big cities. It could possibly be in Texas because there's a lot of land far away from Houston. I really do like Texas I've been all over on road trips and its always many things to get into with a lot of beautiful nature around you. I would say my favorite memories would be being with my friends on roads trips just exploring around Texas seeing the many cities we have here.

Yes, I'm on Death Row and only been for 3 years now. I've been locked up almost 5 years all together. You do have to have a strong mind because this place can really break you down. They keep you in a cell most of the time like an animal and you can only come out when they want you to.

Well what keeps me going I pray, read, write, work out and listen to music most of the time. I just try to keep myself busy and stay with a positive mind. Anyone that tries to bring negative around I really try to block them out. I don’t think this prison I'm in works at all because locking someone in a small cage all day everyday isn't going to help that person at all. It can break many people down but if your mind is strong and you want to get better you'll be better. You won’t fall into that hole that they want you to fall deep in and never come out.

The crazy part about all of this is that they know these conditions don't make you any better and it breaks you down. But they still put us in these conditions. If I pictured a perfect society any one who commits a crime or makes a mistake should be treated like a human for one. No one is perfect and we all make mistakes in life, but that doesn't mean that we should be treated like animals or worse. Even if you make a mistake in life, the state of Texas or any state shouldn't be allowed to kill another person and to think that's right when it’s not. They really think it’s right for them to kill someone by lethal injection, its just sad.

I’ve had some good friends since I've been here get killed and it doesn't make anything better. I’ve gotten really close to some people here; a lot of the time you have no choice but to bond when you're around each other for so long. It helps us get through our days with each other even if its just the conversation we have with each other. Basically the only time we can come out of our cell is for showers, recreation or if we have a visit! Each time we leave out of our cell we are still placed in some kind of cage so it's really not any better getting out of your cell. At least recreation which is only 5 days a week its a bigger cage than being in your small cell. 

Well the word "eternal" means to me life after death. I do believe after we leave this earth our soul goes somewhere and we live on. Just not sure where actually. I’ve always wondered what it would be like dying and leaving my body. And where would I be going. The eternity is left a mystery to me because do we truly know where we'll be going and if its even going to be another life. The thing about life right now I believe that we should enjoy life whatever situation we are in and make the best of it. You never know when it's your time to go so enjoy life while you can. You don't know how it will truly be on the other side till you're there. 

You know the few years I've been locked up I do think that I've gotten better as a person. I know a lot about myself that I didn't know when I was out in the world. I guess when you're out in the world everything is moving so fast so you never slow down and have time for yourself. Being in here, you have nothing but time and everything moves slow around you. I do think it’s always ways to make yourself better even if it’s the knowledge you put into your mind. I do think the knowledge you take in can last forever. Even if you have love for someone or people that can last forever. 

Written by Knia Cotton