Goodwill Towards Men – the holidays in prison

A personal account of holidays spent in prison written by Josh, A Social Ignition client:

“It’s my third holiday season in prison and I can’t help but think about the previous two…

The first one I was still suffering the effects of shock after being found guilty at trial due to the jury being able to look past the words mistakenly spoken about me and the District Attorney’s desire to sustain his conviction rate. I constantly ruminated on all the plans I had prior to my arrest, now irrelevant.

In the single cell I had on “3 South” at the Lane County Jail, Christmas didn’t exist outside of the thoughts and memories, still intact after my fall [conviction]. I experienced 23-hour lockdown allowed out only 1 hour a day to shower and make a phone call. I had a window at the back of my cell just wide enough to see out, yet it faced merely another wall of the jail. There were no televisions, no radios, nothing of the world around us besides those blessed enough to get letters.

I took those repetitive holidays songs on the local radio stations and banal television ads geared to sell us everything from new cars to jewelry for granted. I never realized what the piano notes playing in the background of a commercial for some new medication could mean for someone who’s been without music for an extended period of time. In solitary confinement images of families waking up on Christmas morning to open presents crossed my psyche simultaneously making me feel happy for them and sorry for myself.

I fast forward in my memory to last year’s Thanksgiving, my first beyond jail, in prison. I don’t eat meat, but I was given a half-inch slab of donated ham for lunch as our holiday meal. I opted to trade if for some peanut butter from a fellow prisoner at the four-person steel table we had the honor of celebrating Thanksgiving at. Otherwise, I’d have to resort to beans on the veggie trays for my protein, which have never been cooked properly nor have ever had any taste to them in the two years I’ve been at this institution. I guess I should have been thankful they feed us at all.

The day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, I received a visit from my sister and brother-in-law. They drove down from the outskirts of Seattle to see me and I got to hear how their meal was, what they did and what they ate. Forbidden fruit always sounds the most appealing and the meal my sister spoke of was no exception.

I’ve heard people say that after the first holidays inside you become reasonably numb to the separation and loss of being away from your family. Over years that rift can become permanent. On this holiday season, let us not forget those that have been deemed by the masses as “less than”. Us felons are worthy of forgiveness, of respect, of honor and of love …. and we haven’t forgotten you. …”


Photo credit: Featured photo by A.L. Crego, Barbed Holidays, 2015

4 Responses to Goodwill Towards Men – the holidays in prison

  1. Wishing you a early release and hope for you the best Josh. …. Drop me a letter man. Want to hear how you are and when you will be released. Still have a picture of you and I in the inside out class. Glad the holidays are over for you now. At least for this year. Be good to your self. You will get through it and eat a good meal one day soon. Micah

  2. Well written Josh. I don’t know if you get to read these replies..? I have enjoyed getting to know you in our group Josh. From what I know of you you’re doing great, and I never think of you as less than anything. You know how I feel. We’re all the same energy.. Doing the best we can with whatever thinking and state of mind we have in the moment. Keep on writing, And see you Thursday! Anna

  3. Thought of you this 4th of July…every holiday. You are not forgotten. You are not disposable. Thank you for writing this article. We need to get a glimpse of life on the inside so we don’t forget, and continue to fight for better food and conditions.

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