Editor’s Note: The following letter was among several submitted for publication in The Progress Review with a request they be published as part of a series entitled “Notes from Prison.” While space constraints and other factors will not allow for the publication of every letter submitted, the following composition draws attention to the challenges the state of Iowa has for managing its prison population. According to Iowa Department of Corrections Daily Statistics, there were 8,335 individuals incarcerated in Iowa prisons as of January 4, 2017. With the capacity of the facilities that house them rated at a maximum of 7,286, Iowa’s prisons are considered to be overcrowded by 14.4%. In addition to those who are incarcerated, there are more than 28,000 other individuals that fall under the Department of Corrections’ Field Services classification, with the majority of these individuals either on probation or parole. Given the current strains on the system, the treatment of offenders in Iowa remains a complex issue, as there are very real human and financial costs associated with the decisions made regarding those who have been convicted of committing a crime. -MW

So many people in the U.S. every year are away from home for the holidays. Whether it be because they are serving for our country, or have passed away, or like myself, are in prison.
I can’t speak for those serving for our country because I have no idea what that is like, but I can speak for myself and prisoners throughout the state and country. I myself, have just spent my second Christmas incarcerated. I’ve made a mistake and put myself in prison. We as prisoners don’t want your empathy. We understand how society sees us. There are many inmates who will spend anywhere from two to the rest of their holidays incarcerated.
Sure they [the State] give us a special meal, something we don’t normally get, and some sort of gift. May it be a candy cane or a 20 cent package of Ramen noodles from the State, it isn’t the same as home. It’s one time of the year when whites, blacks, Hispanics, Asians and all other races come together. Friend or foe, we come together and keep peace between everyone. It may only be for a day, but isn’t that what the holidays are for, coming together and celebrating?
We are a community of our own in here. We take care of “our own” as we say. The less fortunate, the ones who have no family willing to support them, are helped this time of year by the fortunate. Yes, we are prisoners, but we aren’t the animals people make us out to be. We are sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, aunts and uncles, grandkids and even some grandparents. So during this time of year, don’t forget about us. We are just as important as those who serve our country or have passed away. We are all equals no matter the circumstances or past mistakes.
From myself and all of us incarcerated this holiday season, Happy Holidays and a safe New Year. Thank you.
Justin E. Murphy – Newton, Iowa