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I surveyed a bunch of guys from all different groups and asked them, “If you could get one thing for Christmas, birthday or other holiday, that is permitted by policy, what would that be?”

There’s not much that can be sent in anymore. No cards, no non-white paper or envelopes even. I really think the majority would say money. The reality was that most people wanted photos, more specifically, a photo of everyone in their family. Or a real letter from the heart. Some said they wanted a magazine subscription or a book series, or a photocopy of a greeting card, which is allowed. The most ingenious request, and possibly the most time consuming, was to photocopy a board game and its pieces and have it sent in.

No one said money. Not one guy.

Even though we prisoners, inmates and cons may have to call home to be told Merry Christmas, Happy Birthday or whatever holiday or anniversary it might be, what we really want is pretty simple.

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.

Brian Hindson is an artist whose favorite styles of work are impressionism and pop art. His work is published on the Justice Arts Coalition. Hindson is incarcerated in Texas.