Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Behind Bars

Darnell Hill, an inmate at San Quentin, writes about Christmas in prison. We repost his words in full today.

Christmas in prison is like knowing it’s something you’re supposed to do and not remembering what it is. In other words, for those of us that culturally recognize Christmas as a family gathering event, we feel the effects of not being there with our families and there’s nothing we can do to change it, life goes on. As a matter of fact, if it weren't for some of us having TVs and radios, the presence of Christmas probably wouldn't have such a mobilizing effect. Most of the hurt, loneliness, and depression during the Holiday season stems from our own guilt and resentment concerning abandoning our families and now realizing how precious those family moments are. 

There are also those inmates who are socially and emotionally disconnected from the culture of Christmas, because they have done so much damage within the family, they now have no family to go home to. Then there are those of us who realize that Christmas is not only a family cultural event but also even more so the day of Christ’s birth, for those that believe in Jesus Christ.  Here in San Quentin, we have a lot of community support that makes us feel like family; we have candle light service together and even do Christmas caroling around the prison, but we can’t sit at the table and have a family meal. Yes, we have a little ham, turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and dressing with a piece of pie for dessert and yet the guilt of abandoning our families eats away at us. 

The bottom line is although Christmas is a festive orientated event; it’s truly not about the lights, Christmas trees, shopping, and giving of gifts. Christmas in or out of prison is more about honoring those you love and those that love you in spite of where you are, how you got there, and the difficulties that come with bringing families together.

All communications between inmates and external channels are facilitated by approved volunteers since inmates do not have access to the internet. This program with Quora is part of The Last Mile San Quentin. Twitter:  @TLM

Happy Winter Holidays to all our friends in prison and on the outside, working for a just, parsimonious and humane society.

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