Keeping it Real

A special holiday thanks

By: pardoned Illinois death row prisoner Stanley Howard

The holiday season is upon us again and unfortunately, over two million of us will be spending it on death rows and in prisons around the country. Life behind bars is spent mostly like Ground Hog Day. Each day is very similar to the previous day.

It doesn't matter what day or holiday it is, most prisoners go on with their daily lives without caring or any acknowledgment to what it is. But the holiday season brings a totally different atmosphere and challenge, because the stress and frustration of being separated from family and loved ones is dramatically heightened. 

This is true for those who have been incarcerated for a short time or long time (I've been locked up for 24 years); no one wants to be away from home during this special time of the year. Understanding this reality, many people, groups and organizations reach out to prisoners to provide a little holiday cheer--this also includes religious groups, charity organizations and the prison itself. 

The cheer comes in many different forms, and can range from something as loving and simple as a card, to actually giving gifts to prisoners or their children. Rev. Jesse Jackson, Bishop T.D. Jakes, Dr. Joyce Meyers and Bob Barker are just a few recognized figures that participate in gift giving to prisoners every year.

But it's mainly the everyday people who take time out of their lives, to touch the lives of others, that really makes the season so special. I talked with a lot of guys here before writing this article. And whether they're celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or the love of life, and if they're Christian, Jewish, Muslim or Atheist, they all agree that being thought of by those on the outside literally chase the blues away. 

"Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!" "Happy Holidays from C.E.D.P.!" "Happy Kwanzaa!" "Seasons Greetings!" are just a few of the many cards I received so far from around the country. 

To all you who sacrifice and give so much of yourself to all of us (the homeless, those who have no one, the troops away from home and prisoners), we appreciate your love, generosity and understanding. Thanks for always making this season so special. 

You can contact Stanley by writing to: Stanley Howard #N71620, 2600 N. Brinton Ave., Dixon, IL 60612.