NROP: How do you feel about prisoners making your Christmas cards?

I remember receiving a card with tulips on the cover years ago. The explanation on the back revealed that the flowers have been painted by people with no hands. Instead, they used their toes or mouths to hold the brushes. I thought it was phenomenal and a great motivation for all of us able-bodied. If they can, what is stopping us?

Throughout the years, many different cards circulated around the house. Some of them were store-bought, already filled with wishes, some blank. Others were hand made by people looking to raise some much-needed funds. The latter were always more unique. They would start conversations and make people think. I, myself, never liked the blank cards. There are people who like the cards that already have well-wishes written down, so all they have to do is sign their name. I never was a fan of those, either. They seem too impersonal. However, I understand that sometimes you just need that to be done for you, especially if you are sending out a large volume of cards, like for Christmas, for example.

Having a completely blank card puts a lot of pressure on you, but having some of it already taken care of, leaves you room for non-commital, leisurely creativity. Whenever my family would be sending out cards (back in the day), they would ask me to address the envelope and write a personal note in the card for the receiver. My handwriting has always been the most legible, so I thought that was why they chose me for that duty. But now that I think about it, it was also because I was the one who could come up with some quick rhymes or just nice prose.

There are still a couple of my family members who still send out Christmas and Birthday cards. Unfortunately, they do it less and less. The main reason for that being lack of reciprocity. These people enjoyed sending out cards because they knew they would receive a lot of them themselves. In the past, this used to be an important communication channel. Some people would insert a short letter into the card, narrating the events of the year that was ending. Even if you did not keep in touch with some of your friends and family all year round, you would find out how they were from a Christmas card. You would know who was born, who got married, who died, etc. Now, with everyone having access to phones, you can communicate with one another with ease. You do not even have to be on the same continent as them.

Back in the day, I remember the whole room being filled with Christmas cards that started arriving in early December and would not stop coming until the middle of January (unreliable postal service). It was magical. We would count how many we received and compare that number with the results from the previous year. Often times, we were lacking counter space due to an overload. Not anymore. Nowadays, it is just one or two cards.

Many people choose to buy a stack of cards that are all the same. I, on the other hand, have always enjoyed the variety. Choosing which card goes to who was also a task that was assigned to me. Maybe my family did foster my creativity after all?! I would pick the serious ones for the elders in the family, and the less sophisticated for the youngsters. I would take the ones with what I thought were the best wishes and send them to the people that I really liked. There was a lot of planning associated with sending Christmas cards.

When you buy a box of cards, you are unable to see what the inside of the card says. Well, at least you cannot be sure of it unless you open every single one of them. A girl in the UK opened a Christmas card earlier this month and saw something she did not expect. It is not clear whether she did so at the store when browsing through single cards or whether she discovered it at home after opening a box of cards.

We are foreign prisoners in Shanghai Qingpu Prison China forced to work against our will. Please help us and notify human rights organization” – said the card.

The card also asked that whoever found the card reach out to Peter Humphrey.

This particular card was sold by Tesco, a supermarket chain popular in Europe. How did they react to the news? They halted production at the factory at which those cards had been manufactured. Moreover, they made a statement in which they claimed they would never use prisoners to produce the things they sell or anywhere else in their supply chain. To me, that is a rather odd first reaction. I did not think that there was a problem with prisoners making cards at all. What are they going to do? Poison the ink on the cards? It seems like a relatively safe thing to allow prisoners to be around.

Tesco representative went as far as to say that regular audits are done for these types of things and there was no indication of violation even a month before that incident. Now, if it is confirmed that prisoners work at that particular factory, Tesco will delist that supplier.

You might be asking who Mr. Humphrey is. Do not worry, I have the answer for you. This is where the plot thickens. An online search by the father of the girl who discovered that message in a bottle card revealed that Peter used to be a journalist, who spent two years at that very same prison. The ex-journalist communicated with other ex-prisoners and was able to confirm that criminals from Qingpu indeed work at the factory which supplies Tesco with products like cards. Humphrey was accused of illegally obtaining private data while him and his wife were running an investigative firm. Once caught, he made an appearance on Chinese TV and admitted to his crimes. He later said the confession was coerced.

I understand that people should get paid for work. Companies should not be able to abuse their power and get free labor. However, if prisoners can be used for anything good, why not let them? People are assigned various jobs while in prison. Some are more coveted than others. All have some sort of perks. What do we expect? Prison to be a 4-star hotel with an all-expense-paid stay?

Coincidentally, I have recently heard the news regarding prisoners suing due to smog they encounter while they are outside in the prison yard. Really? I see a simple solution, then. Do not let prisoners outside anymore. Claim that it is for their own good.

Do you send cards?

Do you receive cards?

What kind of cards is your favorite?

What would you do if you bought a card with a message from a prisoner slave?

What do you think is the best course of action for Tesco/ the human rights organization?

How do you feel about prisoners and their rights?

Stay golden,

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58 thoughts on “NROP: How do you feel about prisoners making your Christmas cards?

Add yours

  1. I used to send photo collage cards of the kids, those were so fun to make. I no longer send cards and only receive a few from close family and friends. I move around a lot since getting divorced and have cut ties with many people.
    I disagree with all forms of human trafficking. Work deserves compensation. In a prison setting I believe work should go toward freedoms such as making phone calls or purchases from commissary. Personally, if I were a prisoner and could take a bus ride to work in a card factory, I’d probably do it for free. The change of scenery and something to fill my time with would be a welcomed friend.
    It’s difficult to know what conditions prisoners are dealing with. I would certainly take action if I came across a note and let the chips fall where they may. The truth has a way of surfacing in one way or another. Thanks for sharing, very thought provoking…….

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Obviously, we do not know all the details. The factory might be making money for free (prisoners), but I’d like to think the prisoners are getting something in exchange just like you mentioned. Are they demanding minimum wage?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting. Things to think about. Re the cards: same boat. We used to get many, now it’s one or two, mostly from authors when I sign up for the seasonal acknowledgment. I like to buy cards; I pick them up at thrift stores and consider old boxed sets an amazing find. Then they sit at my house since there’s not much call, as you pointed out, to send them anymore. I like the pretty boxes they come in, however, and the sparkles. I’m not sure what I’d do if I found a card like the one you’re talking about. It’s an interesting thing to sit with and think about. I’d be less concerned if it said “made by prisoners in Canada” or some such place. China’s record of human rights abuses makes the issue one that requires me to think more about it. Nice piece.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. 1) I am still one of those dinosaurs who sends a card, a letter and a photo. But as you said, I am getting less and less cards in return, and it makes me question why I still do it. I LOVE Christmas and everything about it, but I am in the disappearing minority these days. I still hold out hope that I just might make someone’s day by sending them my card, my letter and my photo. But as my husband says, I am NOT most people, and I do things because I think they are the right thing to do, but most people are to selfish and only think about themselves to really care any more.

    2) I agree with limitlessmare about prisoners receiving some kind of compensation for their work. “In a prison setting I believe work should go toward freedoms such as making phone calls or purchases from commissary”. I also think they should be working, and using their skills or being retrained. The hope is that eventually they will be released back into society, and they will need some kind of marketable skills in order to survive.

    3) WOW!!!!!! How could you not respond to a message like that? At the very least, I would research it to find out if it was a legitimate plea for help or not.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 1. You send a card AND a photo? I think that’s great. I was never into a family photo being turned into a Christmas card. You definitely are not like all the others, which is what I like about you.

      If I remember it next year, I might do a little card exchange for some of my favorite blogging people.

      2. Precisely that. It should be treated as them being traied for real life once they live prison. How do they expect to survive with potentially no work experience for years on end?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I send out a handful of cards. I favor the blank ones to write a personal message. Even fewer are returned. If I received a message from a prisoner in this manner, I’d do or say something. It could be just a joke or a person’s last hope of help. Best check it out. I’d rather have Tesco using convicts to make cards than convicts using weights to bulk up and become a menace. This becomes a human rights issue when prisoners are overworked endless hours. Give them an 8 hour day doing a needed job to help defray the cost of prison life. A life that has few rights.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I usually don’t send cards or receive them. But yeah, when I got my job.. one of my relatives gave me a card. I was delighted. I agree on the personal touch thing. But then I see that social media has made it neglible. So even the simple card with just their signatures made me happy. My fav cards would be handwritten. I remember making cards for Diwali, Christmas and new year back when I was in school. Those were the days.. we used to make drawings on the cover and write wishes inside.

    Why calling prisoners slave? I mean okay they are criminal but they have rights. They aren’t slaves.

    I feel prisons should help make the lives of criminals better, instead of making them more miserable.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right, they are not slaves. However, because they are imprisoned, they have to obey orders from other people. Hence why I used that word.

      Interesting perspective. I can definitely see the good intentions behind it. How would you make lives better for them?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Educating them. Teaching them a skill that can help them earn a living after prison life. I know it’s done.. But I really believe that it’s not done it’s full capacity.

        AndI feel people see criminals as criminals for life. There’s a need to educate the society too. They should be able to start a new life after their jail term is over.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes, I agree. That sounds like the way to go regarding rehabilitation.
          As far as educating the public is concerned, I agree to a certain degree. I definitely wouldn’t treat someone worse just because they were imprisoned briefly years ago. I would treat them based on what kind of human being they are. Some people commit small crimes. Some people repent. Some people are just not good people, though.

          Like

  6. That’s a really interesting piece of information! I believe prisoners have got more and more rights especially when it comes to their living conditions in the prison. Following the idea of human rights at each step, we tend to forget that they’re there for a reason and they shouldn’t be treated there like in a 4-star hotel. My approach to this topic is that they should be given work to repair the damages they caused, to get rehabilitated to the society, to clear out the mind through empowering activities. However, it should be a sort of work which contributes to the common good and not for the benefits of particular groups of interest. Obviously, if their work helps the prison to pay out the bills, it’s even better. Otherwise, we pay for maintaining the prisons from our taxes. Nevertheless, making a profit on prisoners’ work is a no go for me and it definitely requires the attention of human rights organizations.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. I think this has been publicized enough that yes, they will. Will we hear about it? Probably not. Will anything be done about it? Probably. But life will just carry on and if it won’t be these prisoners, it will be other ones.

          Like

              1. Because eventually nothing is done or what is done might not be satisfactory for public opinion? In my belief, showing the follow-up of such stories could encourage people for a more active approach. While for the time being showing the problem without what is done after encourages a passive approach towards problematic questions: nobody cares, why shall I care?

                Liked by 1 person

  7. The only holiday cards we get now are those from the elites containing a newsletter like insert bragging about all the great things they did during the year: scuba in Aruba, safari in Zambia, wedding in Montreal — that sort of crap.

    Of course Tesco’s response would be to protect their brand. Ignore the underlying truth in the message, “We did nothing wrong/not our fault.”

    Labor, beyond subsistence/maintenance in a prison, should provide a wage. They’re not slaves.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. This was a really interesting post Goldie, raising a lot of questions. This incident has been on the news here and I know there has been some investigation into the human rights at that prision. I still send Christmas cards, but only about a dozen now. I used to send about three dozen, but due to others saying that they don’t send them anymore, I have cut back as well. I do give out a lot of cards, but hand deliver them to people or drop them in their mailboxes. I love a variety pack so I can select which card fits a person. I usually always add a few words to a card. As far as would I have an issue with prisoners making my Christmas cards, absolutely not. I think it is a job, especially if they leave the prison setting, that would be coveted, but they should be compensated in some way, whether it is with extra privileges or money in an account for when they are released.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I actually like your approach to cards. Choosing them for specific recipients. I will have to try that next year. As far as the prisoners go, they shouldn’t be forced to work for free. If nothing else, it should afford them some kind of compensation, even if it’s not actually money.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I have actually worked in the UK prison service albeit many years ago. Getting a job in a prison is a privilege- you have to earn the right to have something to do! I think that’s a good thing. I worked with a lot of things there. Sentence planning was one, throughcare, prisoners wages.. yes they can earn money if they get a job – the trouble is then it becomes another way to bully, menace and extort. Crime doesn’t stop because people are in prison, if anything it gets worse. I think they should be able to/ have to earn credits instead that could the be used to pay for classes, either in reading, writing etc or a skill. Prison should be about rehabilitation as well as being merely punitive.
    I’m all for prisoners being allowed to work. Making number plates, Christmas cards – whatever. If it can help defray the cost of them being in prison then it’s all to the good. Taxpayers could use the break! My idea benefits everyone
    As to sending Christmas cards – it’s definitely more of a Brit thing in my experience. We love them! We give them to neighbours, co workers, teachers – just about everyone gets a Christmas card! When I was a kid, the people I liked best got the funny, cute and glittery ones. The people I wasn’t so fond of got the ones with bells or birds etc.. the boring ones! It was a measure of popularity as to the pics on your Christmas card stash!
    I love both sending and receiving cards 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Where haven’t you worked?
      I definitely agree that prison should be rehabilitational. But is that always possible?
      Exactly. I mentioned this in reply to another comment – why are we the ones paying for their stay at the prison, yet they demand to earn money for themselves? I guess we are (somewhat) free and they are not. But then again, I have not been out committing crimes.
      It’s funny to hear that other people select cards for specific people, too. It makes total sense.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t think all prisoners can be rehabilitated by any means. There are some types for whom that’s all there ever will be. They don’t want to change. There are others, like pedofiles for instance, where that’s just how they are wired. I think in at least half though – there’d be a chance. If nothing else, work in prison is an activity. Not all can be trusted to work because they violate the lesser security in a work environment as compared to a cell. I absolutely think making hails more self supporting is good and that allowing them to be paid in credits for education etc is fair. I know not everyone thinks that’s acceptable and they are entitled to both their opinions and mine lol

        Liked by 1 person

  11. I think if someone wants to work while in prison they ought to be able to, and they ought to be able to earn some sort of incentives (and even wages) for doing so. I think the same thing about acquiring an education, if they want to do that instead. Or both if they’re inclined. I don’t think anyone should have to exist in unhealthy conditions, so that smog thing ought to be addressed. That’s pretty much how I feel about folks out of prison, too. You should be able to work if you want to, and earn good incentives and wages for doing so. You should be able to get as much education as you want. You ought to be able to live in healthy conditions, too.

    No, I don’t mind helping to pay for all that. We all should.

    Back to prisons, we also need to understand the underlying causes of mass incarceration and begin to alleviate that in our societies. I didn’t see from where you hail (yet) but I’m in the United States of America, where we proudly incarcerate at the highest rate of any nation, anywhere. Lots of folks sitting in prisons, and a lot of them with no business being there, at all. Gotta fix that. Over in China they have the second-largest prison population in the world and a history of human rights abuse. Hmm. Yeah, I believe they are capable of putting folks who may not have done much (or anything) wrong into unsafe conditions and forcing them to work for nothing but big gov/big corps profits.

    Oh, and don’t get me started on prison-for-profits!

    A good starter piece for me over here on ODAAT. Great topic, great responses! I’m a believer!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the subject.

      How do you think the smog issue should be addressed? Unfortunately, many “free” people around the world live in areas where that is a big problem. It’s killing them, but is it something for which they could sue? Isn’t that a bit silly?

      I’m very pro-education as well, always trying to learn some more.

      I’m here in the US, as well.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The smog issue needs to be addressed with cleaner energy. The Green New Deal would be, and is, a good start. We have to lower emissions everywhere, preserve this planet and all its denizens. I don’t think that’s a silly thing to say; it’s our reality. Difficult to do, yes, in the money-first era we live in, but capitalism-gone-mad is in it’s final time, I think. Not sustainable. Andrew Yang is on the right track with some of his solutions, but he’s too soon. Like Bernie was a few years back, too soon. The world wasn’t ready. We’re ready now. Go Bern.

        In the meantime, the only recourse those prisoners have is to sue. Until we have the political will in America to put little people (incarcerated or not) over big money, the little people have to band together in the courts (or, if necessary, in the streets). I’m a little person, just like those folks locked up in there under the cloud of man-made bad air, so I stand with them.

        Go Rams!

        (just had to add that last part to break up the monologue 😉 )

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Disagreement is the salt of the blogoverse. I spent yesterday morning, at church (a bar, in my world), heartily and respectfully disagreeing with a very right-wing minded human from the south. Once we got through the minutia we came to realize, despite my very left-wing minded mind, we wanted a lot of the same things for humanity, and could even agree on many of the solutions. As I’ve said in my now-world famous piece “Imperfect Information”* (17 likes, 39 comments) the better chances are not that one of us is right, but that all of us are wrong. Still, I digress.

            Who should we sue? Whomever is responsible. The federal government if it is a federal prison. The purveyors of smog, whomever they may be. I would prefer that we could pursue criminal charges against those who ruin the world (and the air and the water) in the name of gold-lined pockets but, alas, the courts are our solutions (for now). Sue away, incarcerated ones, sue away!

            Seahawks let you down last night. Me, too. I really, really despise a universe where the 49ers are amongst the best in football. Who can I sue for that?

            *https://tombeingtom.com/2019/11/28/imperfect-information/

            Liked by 1 person

            1. That’s great. Too many people get wrapped up in disagreeing that they end up losing sight of another human being.

              No, but I mean if prisoners should sue, why shouldn’t we, the free people? And who produces smog? Every one of us. So, would you sue yourself?

              I suggest you sue the NFL.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. I suppose it depends on the context, then. Do you have a link to the particular prisoners and their complaint? If the prison is in the shadow of a big smog-producing corporate giant and their clean air is being polluted by this presence, they should sue to (a) move the giant, or (b) move the prison. Denying them access to air in general, and clean air in particular, would constitute “cruel and unusual punishment.” If the context is that all air is polluted and therefore all air that all prisoners (and all of us) breathe is toxic, then yes … you have a case for silly.

                I wouldn’t sue the NFL but I did almost boycott it. Their treatment of Colin Kaepernick was toxic. In the end, though, we came to terms. By that, I mean, the Rams started playing better. 🤷

                Liked by 1 person

                1. No, I do not have a link as it was something I heard on the radio in passing. You bring up a valid point regarding the “corporate giant.” The news piece sounded like it was “regular air,” which is why I ask why they are better than us since we all inhale the same thing.

                  Yea, I have to say that I’m not as invested in NFL as much as I once was.

                  Happy New Year!

                  Liked by 1 person

  12. Ooo a thought-provoking one! Although I live in the UK I hadn’t heard the latest updates on this story since it first hit the headlines. I think they were still trying to figure out whether there was any truth to it and what was really happening. I think it’s worrying any time you hear of ‘coercion’ and people being made to do things against their will or under dire circumstances kept in bad conditions. But then there’s the ‘however’, because I’ve always thought it would be better for prisoners to be useful to society in some way. Maybe it’s cynical and I know the prisons in other places are going to be a damn site different to those in the UK (where our prisoners seem to take selfies for Facebook of themselves smoking weed and playing computer games!) but they’re in there for a reason and tax payers are footing the bill, so why not have some good come from it, giving them a purpose and giving something back to society at the same time?
    Great post!
    Caz x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I like how you presented the duality of the issue. Things aren’t black and white 100% of the time and that’s what I try to showcase in my NROPs. There’s always a “but” or a “however.”

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Wow, this is crazy. Although I didn’t have any trouble believing such things possible today. I personally like to give cards to my girlfriend. I don’t do it to anyone else because I never felt like others enjoyed such “traditions”. Hope you had a wonderful Christmas, Goldie! Stay awesome! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s nice of you. Some time ago, one of my coworkers who didn’t have much ($$$; supposedly), told me how they would pull out wedding anniversary cards every year to celebrate and reminisce. I thought that was touching.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. What an amazing story! I have conflicting thoughts about prisoners being forced to make the cards. While it doesn’t seem like it would be torturous work, it also doesn’t seem right that others make a profit from essentially forced labor.

    We don’t send out Christmas cards anymore. It was a chore that I dreaded every year. So much pressure!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right. I feel that if it was the general public that profited, then it would be alright. But if a private entity makes such a profit, then it’s a different story.

      How do you share Christmas wishes now? Text messages? Calls?

      Like

  15. That’s nuts. We’d probably be surprised where a lot of things come from if you had the time to find out. Christmas is the only card giving time I get involved in. I’m a bit what’s the point but nonetheless they are sent. It’s the cost of cards that deter me, they are as just as much a gift as an actual gift.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I’ve been browsing online more than 3 hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It’s pretty worth enough for me. In my opinion, if all site owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the net will be much more useful than ever before.

    Liked by 1 person

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