Caitlin Row

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December 27, 2012
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Christmas behind bars in Grand Junction pretty bleak

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - Spending the holidays in the Mesa County Detention Facility means there's no time to spend with loved ones or friends, only time for reflection and quiet.

There are, however, a few concessions made for inmates over Christmas.

"Inmates get a hot turkey meal for Christmas Day and then a sack lunch for dinner with a soda pop," Mesa County Sheriff's Office Spokeswoman Heather Benjamin said. "This is better than their usual meals, so they like that. And, our jail volunteers put together small goodie bags that each inmates gets, with items like a hot cocoa packet, a hot apple cider packet, a granola bar, etc. Little things like that."

"Otherwise, it is a routine day in the jail," Benjamin added.

While inmates are afforded Bible studies on a regular basis, Captain Steve Farlow, the jail division commander, said there's no Christmas Eve or Day church services of any kind.

Plus, Benjamin said: "No presents are allowed and (there are) no visits on Christmas, as we are closed to the public."

An increase in mail is experienced in the week before and during Christmas, Benjamin noted.

Ray Petersen, who's worked as a religious volunteer in the Mesa County Detention Facility for almost 30 years, said holiday gift cards are acquired for inmates to send to family and friends.

"We sell them just for shipping and handling costs to chaplains of jails and prisons," Petersen said. "We got the cards from (American Rehabilitation Ministry Services) and they're handed out to inmates so they can send out some Christmas cards."

Petersen said he teaches Bible-study classes for Mesa County's inmates, and around this time of the year he focuses on the "real meaning of Christmas."

"When we do these things, we get lots of thank-yous," Petersen said. "Sitting in jail is pretty boring."

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The Post Independent Updated Dec 27, 2012 02:13PM Published Dec 27, 2012 02:12PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.