Having a loved one behind bars can dim the holiday spirit. Sheriff's deputies at the Men's Central Jail are trying to offer visiting kids a reason to be jolly this year by giving away toys on Sunday.
For the event, local organizations donated 400 unwrapped toys. Deputies allowed each child choose two presents all day. There are balls and Barbies and toy cars and toy guitars — and a lot of happy kids.
Sgt. A. J. Healy said that the idea for the giveaway came from seeing many kids, ages three to 12, every day, visiting fathers, brothers, uncles and other loved ones. Inmates are incarcerated at the jail for as little as a few days to several years.
In the visitors' waiting area the kids played with their new toys, bouncing balls back and forth, while parents or relatives talked to one another on the jail's phone systems. Thick glass still separated them, and the deputies were still supervising the situation and maintaining security. But it looked a lot more like Christmas than a detention facility usually does. On this day, the sheriff's department extended visitation periods by 15 minutes, giving loved ones the opportunity to spend a full 45 minutes together.
"It was an opportunity to spread some joy this holiday season," Sgt. Healy said.