While millions of Americans spent Thanksgiving weekend around the dinner table with family and friends, Chris Williams spent it behind bars, coming to terms with the fact that he may be there for the rest of his life. A single father who has never been convicted of a violent crime, Chris probably never imagined himself becoming one of the 2.5 million people incarcerated in America. He wrote this from prison:
Sitting here in Crossroads Correctional Center in Shelby, Montana, it might be hard to believe how thankful I am. I enjoy my mornings every day, sitting in a peaceful awareness. I focus on this world inside prison with an open mindfulness. After some time of thought of nothing in particular, I am overwhelmed by gratefulness, gratitude and thanks. Although life in prison is no walk in the park — we have fights, stabbings, suicide attempts and guards being attacked and that is just in my first month — I still find many reasons to be thankful. Your letters and support are the things I appreciate the most. As I strive to face the struggle ahead, to know I have support and people out there who keep me in their meditation and prayers, strengthens my resolve to do what is right.
By now Chris’ story is well known. Chris was a co-owner of Montana Cannabis, a medical marijuana growhouse serving hundreds of state-legal patients across Montana. After a statewide federal crackdown last year, Chris and his business partners were indicted on federal charges despite their concerted efforts to follow Montana’s state medical marijuana law. He is now facing a mandatory minimum sentence of more than 80 years in federal prison. I told his story in a New York TimesOp-Doc video published on November 7, which made it to #2 on reddit.com and helped inspire tens of thousands of supporters to sign petitions asking for Williams’ pardon or release.