Christmas in Prison: A tough time for families

Christmas is a special time for families, but it can be difficult for those who are incarcerated – for both those imprisoned and their families.

Warden John "Big John" Lewis and volunteer Tommy O'Rear hand out cupcakes from First Baptist Church in Minden and goodie bags from First Baptist Church in Haughton to the female inmates at the Webster Parish Jail.  Michelle Bates/Press-Herald
Warden John “Big John” Lewis and volunteer Tommy O’Rear hand out cupcakes from First Baptist Church in Minden and goodie bags from First Baptist Church in Haughton to the female inmates at the Webster Parish Jail. Michelle Bates/Press-Herald

A Christmas party was hosted Saturday and the women were able to spend time with their families for a couple of hours. Gifts were exchanged, and thanks to the generosity of area Methodist churches, the women were able to give gifts to their children.

“It was the biggest blessing during this difficult time,” Kristi McKan, who awaits sentencing, said. “It was so good to be with them, and touch them and tell them I loved them in person. The biggest thing is, I did make this mistake again and I struggle with it. I know they just want the best for me. They’re there to help see me through this.”

A Christmas party was hosted for inmates and their families Saturday where they were able to exchange gifts and spend time with their families for Christmas. They were all treated to singing, food and fellowship during the holiday season.  Courtesy Photo
A Christmas party was hosted for inmates and their families Saturday where they were able to exchange gifts and spend time with their families for Christmas. They were all treated to singing, food and fellowship during the holiday season. Courtesy Photo

Tommy O’Rear, a church volunteer and leader of Celebrate Recovery at the jail, says the love he saw Saturday was touching and a blessing.

“Through the ministry of this Christmas party, this love has been able to be shared,” he said. “There’s nothing like touching. It beats a telephone call. We get a great joy out of knowing the Lord is touching these lives for a few hours that’s going to last a lifetime.”

James Brewer is serving year six of a 20-year sentence and says his first Christmas behind bars was “horrible and depressing.”

“I couldn’t really comprehend all of my emotions,” he said. “With each passing year, it’s become easier. This Christmas, I’m learning not to be upset and be angry about anything, because the people who are having the hardest time are my family. They’re doing the hardest time, and I try not to be selfish, angry and upset or let that rub off on anyone else because it’s not all about me. It’s about others too.”

He says he tries to help those just coming into the system because he understands their pain, and he tries to help them see their loved ones are hurting too.

“I try to help them learn that our loved ones are going through the pain just as much as us,” he said, “maybe even worse.”

As one who sees both sides, Warden John “Big John” Lewis says he feels it hurts the families of those incarcerated more.

“I talk to the families,” he said. “They know what’s going on, but they’re sitting at home imagining all this different stuff that’s happening. I sincerely believe the families have a harder time than the (incarcerated.)”

Brewer says the love shown during the holidays makes it a time to enjoy.

“I want to get it over with, but the only thing enjoyable about it is people showing up and showing love,” he said. “It helps me stop thinking about myself and reach out to show that love to others. It helps me put my mind on others. I’m growing more and more each year to think about others and love others, and use the comfort that God comforted me with to comfort others.”

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