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Detainees at McLean County Jail find a way to send love through gifts during the holidays

25 Dec 2023, Jail News, by

Inmates at McLean County Jail participate in a unique holiday gift program, enabling them to send personalized presents to their loved ones.

Detainees at McLean County Jail find a way to send love through gifts during the holidays - Inmate Lookup

Even though inmates in the McLean County jail are not allowed to spend the holidays with their families, staff has made sure that inmates can still send gifts to their loved ones for the past three years.

The McLean County jail’s director of inmate services and behavioral health, Jackie Mathias, stated that inmates had the chance to make a personalized holiday gift for their family through the facility’s gift program. One prisoner had said to Mathias that it was great to give a present instead of appearing like an “absentee uncle.”

Mathias said that it is open to everyone, regardless of what they celebrate or don’t celebrate.

Each year, the kind of gift changes and is chosen by the staff.

Since the majority of people were still socially isolating themselves due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the staff opted to provide water bottles as gifts for the first year.

Staff members are allowing prisoners to customize superhero masks and capes this year using stickers, fabric, and markers.

However, according to Mathias, there are gifts for every age group, gender, and interest. These could be baseball caps in white or pink, photo frames, and linen tote bags.

It is not necessary for recipients to be the prisoners’ biological children. According to Matthias, they might be stepchildren, nephews, nieces, or the children of an inmate’s spouse.

She added that it is primarily for the inmate’s kids, but if they want to do ornaments and cards for other children in their lives, they try to figure out a way to make that happen.

Along with reading aloud from a children’s book, the jail inmates can record and burn the reading experience onto a CD, which, along with the book, can be shipped to a loved one. According to Mathias, the program is available all year, but during the holidays, staff members look for books with a Christmas theme.

She also shared that, although one prisoner had been housed for the previous three Christmases, his daughter still possessed the annual books and CDs and continued to listen to the recordings.

Jail staff can also provide pre-cut options for plain, Christmas, and Hanukkah wrapping paper based on how their family observes the holidays.

According to Mathias, his staff had all expressed how much they appreciated watching all of their incarcerated persons assist one another in finishing the crafts and give positive remarks about how much their children would love the presents that were being prepared.

McLean County jail inmates who do not have children are permitted to send up to three free holiday cards.

Presents are mailed across the country after addresses are confirmed. This year, over a hundred gifts from 39 participants were sent, according to Matthias.



Photo by Karolina Grabowska: