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This memorable Thanksgiving was from back in 2000 when I was a juvenile. 

I was 11 years old at the juvenile correctional facility in Larned, Kansas. I had never been in trouble or locked up before. Thanksgiving was my first major holiday and holiday meal inside. 

I remember the correctional officers in their dress downs, bringing in home-cooked food that they had prepared. 

They had homemade stuffing, dressing, deviled eggs, home smoked turkey and ham. They even had green bean salad, pumpkin and pecan pies. It was the best holiday meal I had ever had. It was as if I was celebrating Thanksgiving with my family. 

Growing up and landing in the adult system is not the same. There is a lot more criticism and lack of rehabilitation. 

Kansas’ adult system did not serve holiday meals at least between 2000 and 2011 when I was there. 

Missouri’s adult system, where I am now, at least offers that as an option, but it is not as soothing as when I did time as a juvenile.

Last year Missouri served smaller amounts of turkey, ham, sweet potatoes, cranberries and pumpkin pie with ice cream. But I know I am blessed to get even that, as there are states or countries that don’t get anything at all. 

I haven’t received a visit from my family since I arrived at this institution because it is too far to drive and money is limited due to their health issues. 

My favorite Thanksgiving dishes are the cranberries, stuffing and the pumpkin pie.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

David Weil is a writer incarcerated in Missouri.