Prison Diary: Christmas Sacks

Every year a few of the churches in town work together to put together and deliver "Christmas sacks" for every inmate in the French-Robertson facility.

The sacks contain things like food, socks and toiletries. Often the sacks are decorated by children. On a night a few weeks before Christmas, about 30 or so volunteers will go out to the unit to deliver the sacks. There's over 2,000 inmates, so there are a lot of sacks.

Escorted by guards and a group inmates who have been picked to help us, we cart the sacks from cell block to cell block. Each cell houses two inmates. You go cell to cell with sacks in hand. The guard opens the cell and you hand out the sacks with a hearty "Merry Christmas!" It's a very unique opportunity to play Santa's elf.

Brenden, my oldest son, got to come again with me this year. It's a great way for him to meet the guys in the Monday night Bible study.

Over the years, I've gotten less interested in handing out the sacks than visiting the guys in the study. There are plenty of volunteers to hand out the sacks. So when we get to a cell block I mainly look for my guys. From their cell they'll see me walk in and call out. I'll make the rounds, cell to cell, chatting through the bars while we wait for the door to open. It's the one chance I have to see where they live, and meet their cellmate who has been told all about me: "You're Dr. Beck!"

The visit makes them feel very special. That is unheard of, to have a friend visit your cell. The Christmas sacks make it happen.

And it warms a father's heart that Brenden gets to come along. A new Christmas tradition at the Beck house.

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