Christmas Behind Prison Walls


By: Mark Clements
Monday, December 17, 2012

I spent 28 years behind prison walls before finally being freed in 2009. I can tell you from that experience that the holidays can be the most depressing time of the year for those that are confined behind prison walls. For a prisoner there is no holiday celebration, nor a welcoming in of the new year.  Some prisons are even known for locking the inmates in their cells on that day because they do not have adequate staff to work the prison. In most prisons Christmas Day is the same as every other day.  Prisoners are caged inside their cells and are only allowed to talk to their loved ones for 30 minutes (and the costs of those calls are outrageously high). While locked up in a cage, you can’t help thinking about everyone else having fun with family and friends. It meant the world to me to be able to receive a holiday card from members of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty (CEDP) and to know that I was remembered by people on the outside.

As a Chicago Police torture victim who spent nearly three decades inside prison before freed of my juvenile natural life sentence, it has been the CEDP who have stepped up to bring cheer and encouragement to me and many others. Receiving $20-$40 from total strangers, people that I never knew existed, cheered me up immensely. Just to know that there were people on the outside fighting for me and who cared enough to sign a Christmas card to send to me filled me with hope and encouragement.

Since its forming, the Campaign to End the Death Penalty (CEDP), has stepped in and tried to make life a little more comfortable for prisoners around this season. Many inmates are sent holiday cards, and some chapters even raise funds to send in. These acts have provided some much-needed cheer to those behind prison walls. Prisons in general are harsh, some are more inhumane than others, and some staff attempt to make life more uncomfortable on the inmates around this season.

In order for CEDP to be successful, we need you, the supporters of abolition, to consider making a tax-deductible donation. Many prisoners reach out to us for assistance, and we are only able to get their voices heard and offer help because of you.

To donate click here.
Or you can send in a check donation made out to CEDP and sent to: CEDP, PO Box 25730, Chicago, IL 60625

 Today I am one of the staffers with the CEDP. I was hired weeks after I was released. It’s only because of donations from justice-loving people like you that the CEDP can afford to sustain a staff and keep our organization fighting for those behind prison bars.  In the state of Illinois alone, I have watched 21 men freed off death row as the result of flawed evidence, seven of those men were Chicago Police torture victims who were on death row. Had former Illinois Governor George Ryan not placed a moratorium to stop all executions in the state, innocent men such as Stanley Howard, Madison Hobley, Aaron Patterson, Leroy Orange, Cortez Brown, Ronnie Kitchen would have been executed for crimes that they never committed, and men such as Eric Caine and Marvin Reeves would still be in prison serving their natural life sentences. Because of the support and activism by people fighting for justice, we were able to put pressure on Governor Ryan to issue the moratorium that has now led to abolition of the death penalty in Illinois. Because of financial contributions from people like you, we have been able to sustain our organization and to fight around issues that affect the death penalty and criminal “injustice” system.

Please consider making a tax-deductible donation on the behalf of an inmate. In exchange, we are offering a subscription for a prisoner and you to our newsletter, The New Abolitionist. Each issue is filled with exciting stories with information about specific cases, like Marlene Martin’s recent story about Rodney Reed; and with analysis of issues relevant to the death penalty, like Lily Hughes’s story about why death penalty repeal failed in California.

Again you can donate by clicking here.
Or you can send in a check made out to CEDP to: CEDP, PO Box 25730, Chicago, IL 60625

I spent 28 Christmases behind prison bars, from the time I was 16 until 44, and was released because of people like you, who supported grassroots organizing and fought for justice. I know firsthand how much your support means to those who are incarcerated and thank you for your generosity this season.

I thank you and wish you all happy holidays,

Mark Clements

Campaign to End the Death Penalty