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Aug-20-2022 01:32printcomments

My Twenty-Fourth Birthday in Prison

Edwin Rubis has been in federal prison for a non-violent marijuana offense since 1998.

birthday cake
Photo by Flora Westbrook, Pexels

(FCI-Talladega) - Every August 20th serves to remind me that another year has passed - that another birthday is here. A day devoid of a birthday party, birthday wishes, birthday gifts, birthday messages.

A day surrounded by twelve-foot chain-link fences topped with looping strands of concertina wire, granite walls, and chained gates upon chained gates; locked in a ten-by-twelve dungeon-looking prison cell, adorned with a rusted metal bunk, a paper-thin mattress, a burlap-sack-looking blanket, a tiny mirror, a small wash basin, and a stainless steel toilet; along with the unspeakable loneliness, confusion, frustration, grief, anxiety, anger, shame, guilt, and homesickness that pounds on me day-in-and-day-out year after year.

Yet I won't complain. I won't shed a tear.

I'll remain thankful for another year lived. I'll silently blow out made-up candles in my mind wishing that one day I'll redeem the years and seasons blown away by the winds of time; imagining the eating of the first piece of cake to symbolize my gratitude for still being alive, reciting one of my poems:

    Give birth to a new beginning so near
    Traces of lost memories no longer reign
    I'll walk head high up the mountainside
    I won't look back, I won't look back

    Fair share of bitter tears and sunless joy
    Burn and fade like the wind in timeless space
    I smile, the day has come, the day has come...

For each birthday I spend behind bars is another opportunity to give thanks to God, another opportunity to learn and mature and grow, another opportunity to keep adding the missing notes to my life's song.

It took me a while, but I've learned that without darkness there's no light, without struggle there's no victory, without suffering there's no joy - without the psychological trauma and mental anguish I've undergone year after year, I wouldn't know that I'm still not damaged goods - without the oppressive concentration-camp rules telling me when to wake up, when to take a shower, when to eat, when to sleep, when to use the phone, what books to read, and even when to pray, I wouldn't know that I'm still sane and not an automaton at the behest of my captors.

For that I'm grateful. For that I'll enjoy one more year gone by. One more B-day. Even if it's in one of the most dehumanizing places on the planet... even if no one remembers it... but me.


Edwin Rubis has been incarcerated for cannabis for 24 years. He is serving 40 years in Federal prison for a non-violent marijuana offense. He has been in prison since 1998. His release date is 2032.

He has earned a Master's degree in Christian Counseling and is now working toward his Doctorate. Edwin's dream is to do the very same things he does in prison, but out in the community - helping others realize their life's potential and purpose.

You can text Edwin at: (256) 695-0223 Or you can donate:


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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.

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