Twenty-Three Thanksgivings in Prison

By · Thursday, November 26th, 2009

Today begins my 23rd consecutive Thanksgiving holiday as a federal prisoner. I’ve now passed as many Thanksgiving holidays in prison as I passed as a free citizen. Prison has numbed me–I no longer experience the excitement and joy of holiday celebrations, though I know the season represents a time of significance for citizens of the world.

Despite my inability to join in festivities, I certainly have much for which I can feel grateful. I express gratitude for the many blessings of my life every day, and today I bow my head with special prayers for my loving wife, for my family, for good health, and for the opportunities I have to appreciate life.

Yesterday I met Leighton, a young man who self-surrendered to Taft Camp from the San Diego area. New to prison, Leighton brought a fresh perspective as he experienced his first full day in federal prison. He had spoken with my friend Justin before he self-surrendered, so Leighton had an idea of what to expect. Yet he stood in amazement when he saw the amount of waste firsthand.

It’s true that the easy atmosphere of federal prison camps would astonish most taxpayers. At first impression, the prison camps look like recreational resorts, with grown men spending all of their time lounging, exercising, or wasting time. Prison camps truly waste taxpayer resources and human lives.

Certainly, the “punishment” comes with separation from family and community. But taxpayers suffer a high cost for this brand of justice. As Leighton observed, an enlightened society could do so much more than operate these prison camps that separate nonviolent and non-threatening people for years at a time.

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