Ahead of Christmas, the Boone County Sheriff’s Office announced a new program, Hope for the Holidays, which allows qualifying inmates to spend an hour with their children and watch them open presents.
The program was created by BCSO Corrections Sgt. Sam Thompson, who wanted to help families of children whose mothers or fathers are incarcerated in the Boone County Jail.
âI am extremely grateful for the way my life has been and for all that I have been able to accomplish in the absence of a father figure,â said Thompson. âNot all children have this opportunity. Some children end up with pieces left behind by their parents because of the decisions and mistakes they made.
The Meijer store in Whitestown has partnered with the BCSO to purchase gifts for the children. In December 2021, two inmates were selected and were able to watch their children open the presents on December 22.
Every inmate at the facility received a request for the program. After receiving the completed applications, Thompson and other members of a committee reviewed each inmate’s background before selecting them for the program.
âThis program is similar to the Shop With A Cop program but it is different,â Thompson said in an email. âShop With A Cop is designed to meet the basic needs of selected families. This program is designed to provide children of incarcerated inmates with Christmas gifts based on their Christmas list. In addition, this program allows the family to come to the prison and spend time with their incarcerated parent. Obviously, the purpose of the program is to give gifts to these kids, but it’s much deeper than that in my opinion. We want to help change the lives of not only children but also prisoners. Perhaps this program helps encourage the inmate to continue with their treatment and hopefully gives them the motivation to do better after their release.
According to the BCSO, inmates selected for the program try to “improve themselves and have a positive outlook on their future.” To be considered for the program, inmates had to meet the following criteria:
â¢ Considered a model inmate
â¢ No discipline problem in the last six months
â¢ Have children
â¢ Not involved in a Ministry of Children’s Services case, past or present
â¢ Has been incarcerated for more than six months
â¢ No accusations of violence, past or present
â¢ No sex offender charges, past or present
â¢ No cost of invasion of privacy, past or present
âAs a sheriff, I couldn’t be more proud of this job and the ‘thought from the heart’ attitude,â said Boone County Sheriff Mike Nielsen.
Thompson wants to expand the program and select four inmates in 2022.
âIt was the first year for it and I think it was a success,â said Thompson. âThe faces of the children when their incarcerated parent entered were priceless. You could feel the emotion in the room. Likewise, the selected inmates were overcome with emotion. Lots of tears, hugs, laughs and timeless memories were made today. My hope is that this program becomes statewide. I look forward to speaking with other counties who would like to implement this program in their prison. “
Other officers have also drawn inspiration from the program.
âI felt it was not only an inspiration to the inmate and his families, but also to us as officers,â said BCSO Sgt. Julia Hole said in an email. âIt really feels like we are making a difference inside our prison and that we are having an impact on our inmates. It was a very special moment that we were all able to participate in. “