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I interviewed people around me at Mule Creek State Prison in California about how they celebrated Thanksgiving in past years and what they are thankful for. The following is what they said:

“When I first came to prison, they used to give us a hot tray and a cold tray. Now it’s barely one tray. I scoop the cranberry sauce onto a dinner roll.”  
— Robert Day, 64, incarcerated for 42 years

“Last year, they gave us sour cream which I hadn’t had in 11 years. COVID-19 restrictions will make visits a hassle this year again. I’m grateful for the opportunity to get my B.A.” 
— Jerry King, 29, incarcerated for 11 years

“I don’t celebrate Thanksgiving because it symbolizes the murder of indigenous people.” 
— Hollie Garrett, 38, incarcerated for 12 years

“I would be getting a video visit if they gave us our tablets. All of my family lives out of state.”
— Brian Hess-Tage, 31, incarcerated for 9 years

“Last year I ate a spicy burrito with my cellie. I love watching football. I’m grateful to be alive and that God gave me this opportunity to better myself.” 
— Henry Alvarez, 32, incarcerated for 3 years

“I made Bear Creek mac and cheese to go with the turkey they gave us at dinner. I’m grateful to have breath in my body … I’m grateful for having a good relationship with my kids, wife and all the ‘real ones’ I’ve met in here.” 
— Robert James, 41, incarcerated for 6 years

“I love cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.” 
— Charlie Cortez, 54, incarcerated for 5 years

“Every day is the same in prison. I’m grateful to be alive after having a brain tumor.” 
— Phil Derosier, 42, incarcerated for 11 years

“They used to feed us real good. Now I don’t eat the state dinner. I’m just gonna make my own beans and rice with some cheese, chips and cookies.” 
— Aaron Jones, 72, incarcerated for 28 years

“We are going to make spring rolls and sushi. Something different. I’m glad to be alive and have people I love for support.”
— Rafael Barron, 29, incarcerated for 10 years

“I’m grateful to have family support, my teacher Miss Godiver and my education. My family is not vaccinated so I will not get a visit this year. Plus, my mom just had surgery.” 
— Arnulfo Riviera, 54, incarcerated for 5 1/2 years

“Last Thanksgiving my cellie made mashed potatoes, stuffing and yams. We had an apple pie someone made using graham crackers, state-issued cookies, peanut butter and cinnamon for a crust. The next day I tested positive for COVID. I’m grateful I still have my mom, dad and daughter, and people in here that I care about to spend Thanksgiving with. I’m also grateful for Governor Newsom and prison reform.” 
— Steven Serna, 42, incarcerated for 9 1/2 years

 
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. The Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned. The work is lightly edited but has not been otherwise fact-checked.

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Christopher Bryson

Christopher Bryson is a reporter for the Mule Creek Post at Mule Creek State Prison in California.