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A Christmas Inside

By Mauricio Reuben

As the spirit of Christmas gains momentum for those in the free world, here on the inside depression deepens. Questions are asked: Will my family make it through another Christmas without me? Will my kids be happy? Will they still love me if I can't give them the things that I once was able to?

With all the pressure and anxiety, tempers will run short. Everyone will withdraw themselves to their own state of misery for fear of losing control of their emotions and breaking down to cry, which is a forbidden in here. Even worse, some will become hostile and unapproachable - another reason not to talk to anyone.

The administration will make a feeble attempt at bring the Christmas Spirit to the environment, but it only makes it worse. You see, they have not been trained to be good to us. We are their enemies. It has been hammered forged at the academy where they are trained. In fact, I believe that the feeble attempt to express their Christmas Spirit is to give themselves a sense of worth, so they won't go home feeling that they have been inhumane.

In the visiting room smiles will be bright, but hearts will be deep with sorrow and tears will fall. The day before Christmas, after we have been released from our mandatory work stations, we will be given a Christmas package containing a small bag of chips or two, a pack of peanuts, a couple of candies, maybe a beef stick, a serving of coffee and cocoa. We will be grateful. Yet, their act of goodwill will be dampened by the conditions that the packages are dispersed. We will be told to go to our cells and locked down for an hour while they are distributed.

We are normally allowed twelve hours or so from the confinement of our cells and during these hours we lose about three for the "counts" and this day, an extra hour so we can receive a package. No packages are allowed from home - that would be too good for us.

On Christmas, we will be granted absence from our mandatory work. We will be given a Christmas meal which is nothing outstanding, but better than usual. It won't be anything compared to what the free world will have, but again we will be grateful. The day will come and go without notice. The mail will not run that day, so if you don't get a visit you won't have much contact with the outside - unless you can afford a phone call. I will call home, but many can't. I will not ask my wife and family to visit at Christmas, it is supposed to be a joyous time of year, a day of celebration - not misery. Some families come, and the prisoners worry themselves sick about bad weather and drunken drivers.

Let's face it - Christmas as it is known in the free world, does not exist in here. It is just another day with little relief from monotony. We will be lonely, we will be deep in sorrow and we will get through it. But the one thing that hasn't been taken away is our memories of Christmases past, the good times we have had with our families in our yesteryears.

Seasons Greetings to you all and may you cherish the time you will spend with family and friends. -Mauricio Reuben

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