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#6 Holiday Special: Think like a Prisoner

The holiday season has arrived once more. From all sides, everyone is inundated with cheery Christmas music, and advertising which tells them what they should be wishing for, with admonishments to buy, buy, buy, before it is too late. In the midst of all this nonsense, it is any wonder that so many forget what this time of year is all about?

A prisoner’s life does not change much, regardless of the season. Because all of the usual trappings of holiday cheer are dispensed with, holidays tend to be a somber affair in prisons. This year is especially so for those in Terre Haute, with the spectre of possible executions lurking nearby. Only one day before I wrote this text, several states filed Amicus briefs to the Supreme Court, in support of immediate execution for 27 federal death row prisoners.

All of this makes it extremely easy for each person to dwell on losses, and what they no longer have in their lives. Conversely, this also makes it easier to appreciate the things each person does have. James Clavell once wrote in a novel, " Only by living at the edge of death can you understand the indescribable joy of life." Truer words were never spoken.

Due to this fact, many death row prisoners often reflect upon, and remember, those who have nothing. Even the most selfish of prisoners, even those whose crimes would make a person believe they are completely heartless, are often generous at this time of year, in giving to charities.

This year, many at Terre Haute have chosen the Brown Bagger School Food Program as their designated charity. This is a program local to the prison, which is aimed at making sure underprivileged children, who do not get enough to eat at home, have food on the weekends, when they are not covered by the regular school food programs.

Prisoners are naturally skeptical and suspicious, in all circumstances. Having little to give means even more caution than would be usual is exercised when it comes to the selection of charities. In the U.S., it is normal for many large charities and "non-profit" organizations to accept donations, then to retain 90% of the money for "administrative fees". There are many examples of this; companies that take in billions, and keep most for themselves. That sort of thievery and criminality, on a scale that beggars belief, dwarfs the actions of 99% of all prisoners. Yet it is all perfectly legal, and the 10% pittance they so generously put towards helping others allows them to retain their tax-exempt status, while laughing all the way to the bank. No one here wishes to offer money to a place like that!

The Brown Bagger program uses 94% of their operating expenses actually purchasing food. If a donation arrives with the notation " For food only", they will use 100% of those funds on food alone. These are not people who are trying to take advantage, out for their own personal gain. They are truly trying to make a difference. Money sent to them is well spent, which is the reason why they receive my personal endorsement.

Whatever your beliefs may be, whether you celebrate Christmas or Kwanzaa, Hanukkah or Yule, the Winter Solstice or anything else, it is my hope you will all remember those less fortunate than yourselves . When you do so, please do not just give to a charity because the cause sounds good in their glitzy advertising. Think like a prisoner! Verify where the money goes, and how it is spent. Make a real difference in someone's life this year, instead of helping some rich scam artist further line their pockets.

Happy Holidays, and stay safe.

(Anyone wishing to support the Brown Bagger School Food Program can find two links down below.)

Facebook group:

Donation website:


Next article:

#7 Catfish - Part I


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