Holidays in Federal Prison – Book Excerpt

“What are holidays like in prison?” It’s a big and important question because so many fears course through our minds as we walk this path, and this is one of them.

So much so, I dedicated a chapter to it in “Blank Canvas, How I Reinvented My Life After Prison.”

An important aspect of a justice journey is understanding that everyone’s experiences are their experiences; they aren’t set in stone.  This was my experience; it doesn’t mean it will be someone else’s experience.

“Remorse is the poison of life.”


There’s a sadness in the air. It’s not just mine; it belongs to all of us. None of us complains.

What’s the point? We’re all in the same boat, all wishing we weren’t. We keep our wishes to ourselves, doing our best to maintain our routines, all the while struggling with what we should be doing, not what our reality is. There’s no reason to say it because we’re all thinking the same exact thing.

We all wish we were home with our families doing whatever each of us does on Christmas Day. There is a collective, unspoken desire that Christmas disappears just for the time we are in prison. We’d like to skip the day or at least be unaware of it.

I should be home but I’m not. I should be waking up next to her, kissing her shoulder, wishing her a Merry Christmas, as she rolls over with a sleepy smile, saying, “Hi, baby, Merry Christmas.”

I can hear her morning voice in my ear, not yet awake, soft and gentle. I love it.

I should be bringing her lavender tea in bed and the first present of the day. I should be next to her, celebrating not only Christmas but the anniversary of my proposal. We should be sitting on the floor, under the light of the tree, opening our presents, opening Matisse’s and Athena’s gifts. We should be making breakfast.

We should be together. But we’re not and it’s my fault. I want to escape the regret and the weight of this day. I look to our last Christmas together but I ruined that one too. We woke to the shadow of prison in the air and the pain from the accident in our bones. Two Christmases have been destroyed and I’ll be here for the next one as well.

This isn’t Christmas. It isn’t an anniversary. It’s just another day I want to end.

Craig Stanland is a Reinvention Architect, TEDx & Keynote Speaker, and the Author of “Blank Canvas, How I Reinvented My Life After Prison.”

As a thought leader in personal reinvention, Craig’s mission revolves around guiding individuals from the anguish of unfulfillment into the joy of a purpose-driven life of meaning. His work empowers people to break free from their status quo, reconnect with their true selves, and unleash their full potential so they can discover more profound meaning and purpose in life beyond professional, financial, and material success.