A Holiday Greeting

(Merry, merry – promoted by TheMomCat)

It’s that time of the year when I step back from my keyboard, post my usual, bilingual Happy Holidays message at my blog, and shuffle off for a week or so for an end-of-the-year break.

So this is a good time to wish all of you Happy Holidays and a healthy and prosperous New Year.  Won’t it be great to have 2009 in our rear view mirror?

This is a time of year when I want particularly to remember all of those in the US who are imprisoned.  There are about 2 million people incarcerated.  My work in real life is being a criminal defense lawyer. I’ve done this work for more than thirty years, and I’m passionate about it (that is the subject of an upcoming essay in 2010 about Gideon v. Wainwright and me).  Sometimes I fail; sometimes my clients go to prison.  Some go for very, very long periods of time.  My clients who have been convicted and imprisoned, I have discovered, are not much different from me.  But their lives are far harder. The prison walls keep them in while they serve their time, but the walls also keep me and you out, isolating those who are locked up and making it likely, unless they are our immediate family or close friends, that we might forget that they are imprisoned.  Many who are locked up are estranged from their families, and if they’re not, they might be far away from them geographically.  So this time of year increases their suffering. There can, it turns out, be extreme loneliness even in the midst of complete, institutional lack of privacy.  And suffering can be increased even by monotony. Anyway, particularly at this time of year, I hope that we can pause for just a moment and remember those who are behind the walls.  And that they are just like us.  And wish for them happiness and a cessation of their suffering.

I’m thankful that every year there are stories like this one.  I wish there were more stories like this.


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  1. Thanks for reading.  See you in 2010.

    • justCal on December 24, 2009 at 18:01

    Happy Holidays

  2. Thank you for reminding me.

    As one who has been imprisoned, I do often think of those I left behind.

    Many people don`t have any idea what the horror of incarceration really is.

    I always thought that those who sentence others to hell, should at least spend a little time there.

    I imagine their justice would be tempered with mercy, although I realize they are limited in that capacity by mandatory minimums.

    Still, the prison system is badly flawed & I fear it will get much worse as “for profit prisons” become more prevalent.

    For your kind thoughts for others, a card, one that many you have compassion for, will never get to see.

    The irony of this is a shame.


    • Miep on December 25, 2009 at 17:38

    in the January-February issue of Mother Jones, about progressive treatment of felons. The article about the guys who are trained to gentle mustangs is particularly powerful.

    Most of these guys wind up out of prison sooner or later, and these programs apparently really help with recidivism.  

  3. I stumbled upon a few weeks ago when I was looking for something else (typical me!).

    David Gregory Roberts speaking about some of his prison experiences in India… This clip he talks about being shackled. (If you havent read it, his novel Shantaram is one of the best Ive read in eons.)

    thank you David, for your diligence.

  4. Presidential Pardons and Commutations, by year, since 1945

    Pardons: Truman 1,913 Ike 1,110 JFK 472 LBJ 960 Nixon 863 Ford 382 Carter 534 Reagan 393 Bush 74 Clinton 396 Bush 189 Obama O

  5. I had no idea that you did this work. Pretty amazing that so many here not only advocate on line but in the real world do the same. Thank you for doing this important work. Our society is becoming more and more like the Romans, cruel and punishing. Years ago I spent 3 days in jail for contempt of court in LA. It was a real eyeopener as far as who the system puts away and why. As I rode on a bus from holding tank to holding tank I understood completely what makes people turn to violence and terrorism.  

    Hardly anyone of my fellow prisoners belonged in the holding cells. They were mostly guilty of being poor and and having to survive in the world they lived in. Lots were there because they were simply caught in the net that sweeps up humans like fish doing things that while illegal we all might do.  The most alarming were the political prisoners who because I was a felon, I slept with. I never thought that they actually locked people up for something like conspiring to free Leonard Peltier. The criminals were far less scary and cruel then then the people on the other side of the bars, our ‘tenders’.

    I will think of all the people in prisons today hope they find some happiness and an end to their imprisonment of mind body and spirit. Peace to you David.              

    • Xanthe on December 26, 2009 at 02:01

    I was in prison and you visited me.  

  6. for those who befell less fortune in this life.  For those genuinely guilty of a “crime,” our society (in it’s values) practically ensures recidivism  — so many who have been in prison have become many forgotten souls, who may not have been guilty of anything but a misdemeanor, and go on being “branded” for life.  So, yes, thank you for being one who cares about these souls!

    Happy Holidays to All!

    Here is something happy, gentle and sweet!

    The famous French tennis player, who is now a famous French singer! His son is Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls.  

    Les Lionnes by Yannick Noah

  7. formerly just The Prison Ashram Project. Providing aid, advice, books, etc. for prisoners, for decades.

    The Human Kindness Foundation, founded by Bo and Sita Lozoff, is a non-profit organization which stresses a way of life based upon three common principles taught by the great sages of all religions: Simple living, a dedication to service, and a commitment to personal spiritual practice.

    You have to just love anyone who would say this:

    “The cause of all our personal problems and nearly all the problems of the world can be summed up in a single sentence:

    Human life is very deep, and our modern dominant lifestyle is not.”

    -Bo Lozoff


    Our prison system is insane, totally insane.

    Some of you may’ve heard of Bo’s first book: We’re All Doing Time. Marvelous read.

    Bo’s first book We’re All Doing Time, with over 385,000 copies in print, was hailed by The Village Voice as “one of the ten books everyone in the world should read,” and is acclaimed by prison staff and prisoners alike as one of the most helpful books ever written for true self-improvement and rehabilitation.

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