A prison is a place where people go to be punished. It is a place to house criminals in the hopes that they learn their lesson and are able to return to society a changed and better person. For some, they may never get the chance to leave prison again. The time spent inside the four iron-barred walls is not supposed to be a pleasant one. It is a difficult time meant to scare you from ever doing any more wrongdoing for the rest of your life. However, this difficult time is subjective, and not every moment spent behind bars is necessarily a bad one.
Shows like Orange Is the New Black can sometimes make life in prison look a bit fun. When you’re behind those four walls, you have to make a new life for yourself. In order to survive such a long time away from what you know to be normal, you have to create and sustain a livable environment. Oftentimes, people can’t handle this new reality and end up acting out. A lot of prisoners are forced into dangerous gangs out of fear for their life, and many suffer mental illnesses that end in their demise.
Although prison is supposed to be a tough time, it can’t always be that way. Every once in a while, people have to be able to have a little fun in order to boost morale, and as a reminder of what life can be like back on the outside. And just because you’re behind bars, that doesn’t mean that life doesn’t go on outside.
What do you think? Are activities like these too lenient? Or are prisoners allowed to have a little fun? Let us know in the comments! Here are the 15 strangest celebrations, and ways people celebrate holidays, behind bars.
15. Mother’s Day For Prisoners
Mother’s Day is a special time in which children dedicate a day to celebrate their moms. But for the mothers who are behind bars, it’s a much different story. The majority of women who are sentenced to prison are there on drug related charges. Next to these statistics is the fact that less than 10% of children under the age of 18 will ever get to see their mother in prison. This is because some are sent to live with foster families, some stay with parents who don’t want their child to visit the incarcerated spouse, and some can’t afford to make the possible lengthy trip to the prison.
So the truth is, a lot of nonviolent women have to sit behind bars while they grow further and further from the child. This means that Mother’s Day for a lot of women behind bars means that it will be a somber and lonely day while they reflect on how they could celebrate the day. But luckily, some prisons do work hard to ensure their inmates get the opportunity to bond with their child for a short period. In Alabama and California, there are a few programs that help transport kids from their homes to prisons.
14. Fourth Of July At Willard-Cybulski Correctional Institution
At the Willard-Cybulski Correctional Institution, prisoners are able to get outside and enjoy the Fourth of July for a change. It’s a bit ironic, as the fourth of July is all about celebrating our independence and freedom. When you’re a prisoner, those are two things that are definitely lacking. The prisoners don’t even get to fully enjoy the holiday, as they’re put to work most of the day. They’re hired by the town of Enfield for a local fourth of July celebration.
The organization is a nonprofit one, so they rely on the free work the prisoners bring. All of the men who volunteer are nonviolent criminals who have very little time left in their sentence. Though they do the work of what could normally cost $8,000 in labor, the prisoners are ready and willing to provide their services. It boosts morale and gives them a taste of what good awaits them, causing them to maintain consistent good behavior while they serve out the rest of their short sentence.
13. Sobriety Graduations In Prisons
When you think of graduating, it’s the ultimate time to celebrate. High school graduation means you’re gaining independence from your parents and teachers, and get to move on to a new phase in life. College graduation means you’re free from doing homework ever again. But for some graduations in prison, it’s a completely different story. We’re talking about sobriety graduations. As you can assume, a lot of people with addiction problems go to prison. When you’re incarcerated, depending on where you’re sent, it can be pretty challenging to maintain your drug or alcohol abuse.
Often times, sobriety groups are offered for prisoners to find a place to discuss their addictions and work through them together. Some are forced into the sobriety sentence although that they might have been given a lighter sentence. Regardless, once completing the program, many people enjoy celebrating their new sobriety. The irony is, is that they only get a small graduation ceremony and are then forced back into the life they’ve found behind bars.
12. Indiana Prison’s Talent Show
In one Indiana state prison, prisoners get the luxury of participating in an annual talent show. The show was even featured in an unscripted movie called The Redemption Project: Inmates Got Talent. The performance includes about 20 inmates who are all nonviolent criminals. Many of them have less than seven years left of their time served as well, meaning no one who was sentenced with a life term gets the opportunity to perform.
This is strange in that you imagine prisoners as mostly tough criminals who keep quiet and to themselves. Instead, they all love performing and cheering on performers during the show! Celebrations like this are good in that they help steer prisoners in a more creative and inspiring direction rather than putting them in a position that might result in them ending up back behind bars. When you give prisoners something to live for, suddenly their desire to commit more crimes decreases.
11. When Prisoners Celebrate Halloween
People love dressing up as inmates and cops every Halloween. This year, people even loved dressing up as Hillary Clinton in prison garb. The reality is, these people aren’t just in costumes. This is their life, and every day they have to wear the costume. Some prisoners also go as far to say that life behind bars is like Halloween every day. It’s true that they do go through some hardships, but not every day is bleak for others. And Halloween means a fun celebration for a select few prisoners!
In low-security facilities, for mostly nonviolent criminals serving short sentences, Halloween is a way to celebrate. Some save up candy and pass it out on Halloween. They still get creative and make costumes, mostly using white sheets as ghosts. And some are even allowed to watch scary movies or shows that are playing on the television. For some in maximum security facilities, however, every day you’re surrounded by serial killers and murderers who want to harm you.
10. Prisoner’s Last Meals In Various Locations
Have you ever wondered what your last meal would be? Maybe the fast food you had today was your last lunch. Or maybe it’ll be Thanksgiving Dinner in 50 years. Whatever yours may be, there will be one. And for prisoners given the death penalty, they actually get to choose what they’ll be having. In most cases, those who are sentenced to an execution are granted one request for any meal they want. In contemporary times, the budget for their last meal is usually somewhere between $15.00 and $40.00.
Most people request reasonable things, like steak or shrimp. Some people get a little weird with their requests, however, like Victor Feguer, who requested one olive with the pit inside. When you think about it, it’s pretty morbid to know that anything will be your last of something. But you have to remember that anyone who is sentenced to the death penalty has done something so brutal and vicious that the courts decided the only way to rid the world of their evil is to simply kill them.
9. The Vallenato Party At La Picota Prison
So far on the list, these celebrations seem fairly reasonable. No one should be having too good of a time in prison, but it’s definitely fair that they have a good day every once in a while to boost morale and remind them of the good things that wait on the outside. But the Vallenato Party At La Picota Prison in Bogota, Colombia might be pushing it a little bit. In this particular prison, things are much more relaxed. This particular type of party stems from prisoners and politicians being intertwined, resulting in special privileges.
These lavish parties aren’t something that’s necessarily celebrated or admired but instead condemned by the public. The parties usually include live performances and plenty of alcohol, something that prisoners should never get their hands on. But regardless, they continue to happen due to the mixing of politics and prisons.
8. Rodeos And Bullfights At The San Jose El Alto Prison
When you can control a prison, you can get away with a lot of corrupt business. You have a bunch of people under you who are more than willing to keep quiet if it means they don’t have to continue to act like prisoners. So for six years, the Picota Prison in Bogotá was the hot spot for many people looking for a party. The place would often host bull fights, bull riding, and other general party activity.
The place was the perfect spot to have secured parties that could make a profit. There would be charges for entry, and plenty of sex workers frequented the spot in exchange for a small fee to the guards. In a place with low security, people with too much power can get away with abusing their power that much easier. And people still think private prisons are a good idea? At least no one’s tax dollars were spent.
7. Birthdays In Prisons
Just because someone is in prison doesn’t mean that they don’t still have a birthday. Life moves along inside just as it does on the outside, but at a much slower place. Birthdays might be the most depressing celebration on the list, as they are almost not celebrated at all. We’ve all had a bad birthday before. We have one every year and it’s not like every single one can be perfect. But even your worst birthday is probably better than one behind bars.
Many prisoners decide to keep quiet about their birthday. If another group or someone dangerous gets wind of your birthday, they might lash out or start a fight. Many people are sensitive to jealousy and don’t like when the attention is turned on someone else. For those that aren’t afraid to celebrate, things aren’t much brighter either. Sometimes, if you have friends on the inside, they might put together a little celebration for you. Friends and families can also visit, but it’s not like they’ll be able to give you any presents.
6. Constant Celebrating At Venezuela’s San Antonia Prison
At one point, a prison in Venezuela opened a nightclub right inside the prison doors. The inmates were given cell phones so that they could invite friends and family to the premises. They were allowed to drink alcohol, and some got away with smoking marijuana and even doing crack cocaine in the alleys of the prison. Female entertainers were also hired to frequent the club and walk around wearing revealing bathing suits. All of this was done as an effort to reduce violence among the inmates. Huh.
The fact of the matter is, that this still cost money. Obviously, the prison charged people entry and for their drinks, meaning they could maintain it fine just like a business. Outsiders would bring their own money, so instead of a prison, it was like a real club. But where did the inmates get their income? Most of them would end up partaking in illegal businesses to make cash to hire sex workers and buy drugs. So instead of stopping violence, it just created more crime.
5. Imbolc Anywhere In The U.S.
Part of what makes our country great sometimes but terrifying others is our freedom of religion. With that freedom, you can’t deny anyone anything that might be linked back to their religion. That is why prisoners everywhere are allowed to partake in celebrations revolving around lactating sheep. You read that right. The celebration is referred to as Imbolc, and is a Pagan holiday.
The holiday doesn’t completely revolve around the lactating of sheep, but that’s definitely a part of it. Pagans behind bars are also allowed to keep a magic wand and a book of shadows in their jail cell. Many facilities believe that if you take a person’s religion away, you take away their identity. You also risk taking them off track of something that might be leading them to a better and more productive life. How many once- criminals have you heard of that turned to God? What do you think? Should they be allowed to celebrate?
4. Some Celebrate Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s Day, depending on how optimistic or pessimistic you are, is supposed to be a romantic day that revolves around celebrating the love two close people share. It seems a little odd, then, that some people still celebrate this romantic day behind bars. Even though prisoners are separated by their sex, that doesn’t mean two people locked up together can’t still fall in love with each other. Some people hide their romantic relationships out of fear of getting harmed for a possible homosexual relationship. But the reality is, as our society becomes more accepting, so do people behind bars.
Women locked up have always been known to be more tolerable of homosexuality as well. So people are definitely still dating, which means people are definitely still celebrating Valentine’s Day too. And beside just the people behind bars together, there are plenty of couples that maintain relationships while one person is incarcerated and the other is not. Most of the prisoners have to use their resources inside to send out Valentines, though some low-security facilities allow prisoners to use the computer to send e-cards and even order presents online.
3. Beauty Pageant At Penitenciaria Feminina da Capital
If you’ve seen Orange is the New Black, you know that prison is not a glamorous place. You aren’t really allowed to wear makeup, the clothing is baggy and non-form fitting, and there’s pretty much no way that you could really smell all that good. But that doesn’t mean female prisoners don’t get to look glamorous at least one day out of the year. At the Penitenciaria Feminina da Capital, prisoners of all sorts get to participate in the yearly beauty pageant.
Most of the criminals are nonviolent offenders and prisoners who have shown good behavior throughout their time serving. The pageant is a way to remind the women of their value and give them a chance to dress up and feel beautiful like they might have on the outside. It’s all voluntary, and there is even a pageant for the masculine inmates who might identify with a male gender. It gives the prisoners something to look forward to as well as the opportunity to remember what freedoms they’ve given up for their crimes.
2. What Christmas Used To Look Like
Prisons in the 1920s used to be a little different than they are today. The prisoners were also much different. Nowadays, we have violent gangs that are massive enough to control neighborhoods inside and outside of prison. Gangs have been around for a long time, but they’re more dangerous than they have been before. This means that maximum security facilities are more common and full. And it only took one bad Christmas celebration behind bars to ruin it for everyone. So Christmas in the 1920s looked a lot different than it does now.
Prisoners used to be allowed to decorate their cells and they could even give each other presents. Obviously, Christmas is a religious holiday for many, so you can’t always deny people the right to celebrate. But some things just seemed a bit lavish for these prisoners, like in the picture above. But things today have definitely changed.
1. What Christmas Looks Like Now
Like most of the holidays on the list, Christmas nowadays is celebrated depending on what security level facility you are in. For nonviolent criminals serving short sentences, Christmas is a luxury you can still participate in. Inmates give other inmates homemade gifts or snacks bought from the commissary. The prison guards who have to spend Christmas behind bars for their job are always a little more lenient too, and often let people decorate their cells even though that’s prohibited in other places.
When it comes to maximum security facilities, there’s an entirely different story. Many people are hesitant to give gifts to other people out of fear of what the implications behind the present might be. And too much excitement and activity is too much for some inmates to handle, so they might act out and behave erratically. But even though prison serves a purpose to teach and punish, it’s obvious that not every day has to be bleak torture for inmates, especially for those serving short periods of time for nonviolent crimes.