Ahead of Christmas, the Boone County Sheriff’s Office announced a new program, Hope for the Holidays, that allows inmates who meet certain criteria 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.
“I am extremely grateful for how my life has been and everything I have been able to accomplish with the absence of a father figure,” Thompson stated. “Not every child gets that opportunity. Some children are left with pieces left behind by their parents due to the decisions and mistakes they’ve made.”
The Meijer store in Whitestown 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 Dec. 22.
Every inmate in the facility was given an application for the program. After receiving the completed applications, Thompson and other members of a committee went through each inmate’s background before selecting them for the program.
“This program is similar to the Shop With A Cop program but it’s different,” Thompson stated in an email. “Shop With A Cop is designed to provide the basic needs for the families they select. This program is designed to bless the children of incarcerated inmates with Christmas gifts based on their Christmas list. Also, this program allows the family to come to the jail and spend a moment with their incarcerated parent. Obviously the goal of the program is to provide gifts for these kids, but it’s much deeper than that in my opinion. We want to help change the lives of not only the children but also the inmate. Maybe this program helps encourage the inmate to continue their treatment and hopefully gives them the motivation to do better upon their release.”
According to the BCSO, inmates selected for the program are trying to “better themselves and have a positive outlook on their future.” To be considered for the program, inmates were required to meet the following criteria:
• Considered a model inmate
• No discipline issues in the last six months
• Have children
• Not involved in a Dept. of Child Services case, past or present
• Has been incarcerated longer than six months
• No violent charges, past or present
• No sex offender charges, past or present
• No invasion of privacy charges, past or present
“As the Sheriff I could not be prouder of this work and the ‘thinking from the heart’ attitude,” Boone County Sheriff Mike Nielsen stated.
Thompson wants to grow the program and select four inmates in 2022.
“This was the first year for it and I believe it was a success,” Thompson stated. “The faces of the children as their incarcerated parent came in were priceless. You could feel the emotion in the room. Equally, the inmate(s) selected were overcome with emotion. Many 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 jail.”
Other officers were also inspired by the program.
“I felt that it was not only inspirational for the inmate and families, but also us as officers,” BCSO Sgt. Julia Hole stated in an email. “It truly feels that we are making a difference inside our jail and impacting our inmates. It was a very special moment we all were able to be a part of.”