“I’m Thankful I Know Prisoners” by Julie Stewart, President & Founder of FAMM

I receive email newsletters from FAMM (Families Against Mandatory Minimums) and this message touched my heart today. I wanted to share FAMM President and Founder, Julie Stewart’s thoughts on Thanksgiving… “I’m Thankful I know Prisoners”

It’s almost Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving and I have a lot to be thankful for: my health, family, and freedom, as well as the sentencing reforms we’ve won this year.

Our federal reforms will reduce prison sentences by two years, on average, (thank you, U.S. Sentencing Commission!), and Florida sentencing reforms will save future drug and gun offenders prison time (thank you Florida legislators!). I’m grateful for the work of everyone who contributed to these victories.

I am also extremely thankful, this year and every year, for what I’ve learned from those who are sitting in prisons across this country.

I don’t know what my attitude would be if I had spent 11 years in prison and still had 7 more to go. Or if I had served 30 years behind bars and knew that I could be there until I died. Or, if I were missing yet another Thanksgiving holiday at home. I imagine I would be bitter and angry. But that’s not what I hear from these men and women who write to FAMM every day.

I hear hope and gratitude in their emails and letters. Here’s what they say:

  • “Thank you for giving me the chance to tell you my story.”
  • “Thank you for [recognizing that] we all change with time, I’m not the same man I was eighteen years ago.”
  • “They have trees here, yes, I said trees!  They did not have trees at [my last prison]…not even a stupid bush. Here there is a nice big yard with a fence, so you can see the countryside… something I haven’t seen in ten years. I am so glad.”
  • “Once I am released from prison, I plan to start a nonprofit organization with my family to help troubled teens by teaching them the right thing to do in life to not end up in prison.”
  • “No conviction can ever take a man’s Purple Heart, or remove my Silver Wings from my chest.”
  • “Thank you FAMM for fighting for the defenseless.”

Words like these from prisoners – people you would think have so little to be thankful for – have taught me that everyone can find forgiveness, redemption, and gratitude no matter their circumstances. And for that, I am very thankful.

My very best,


Julie Stewart
President and Founder
Families Against Mandatory 

Families Against Mandatory Minimums
1100 H Street NW
Suite 1000
Washington DC, 20005


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