Pharos-Tribune

December 26, 2012

Cass County inmates: A real Christmas

Work Release and In-home detention inmates spent Christmas with their families

by Caitlin Huston
Pharos-Tribune

— For Teresa Fry, this Christmas was a chance at normality.

Fry was able to join the frazzled Christmas shoppers to purchase a washer and dryer for her mother, watch her six-year-old nephew play with his toys and sit down for a family dinner. But Fry may appreciate the Christmas traditions more than most, as she spent last year in prison.

“Last Christmas I was locked up,” Fry said.

As a current work-release inmate, Fry was offered an eight-hour pass on Christmas Day. Dave Wegner, director of Cass-Pulaski Community, said they offer the passes to individuals on work-release and in-home detention in order to connect them with their families and to reward good behavior.

The eight- to 10-hour passes are given out for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, Wegner said. The individuals who receive the passes just have to specify where they’ll be and then wait for a visit from an officer to verify that they’re at the correct location.

“It’s just time for them to be with their family during the holidays,” Wegner said.

Wegner said they do not necessarily have to visit family, but their location has to be approved by Cass-Pulaski Corrections.

The corrections center typically offers a special meal for inmates who don’t have family or friends to visit on the holidays, Wegner said.

Wegner said this Christmas he believed everyone in both programs received a pass.

Connecting individuals with their families is part of the positive reinforcement step that the corrections center follows for effective interventions, Wegner said.

Inmates can also earn passes and gift cards to local restaurants as part of a reward program for good behavior.

When the inmates return from their day out, Wegner said officers do a breathalyzer test to make sure they did not consume alcohol. Inmates are also only allowed to bring back presents that fit the correction centers guidelines.

But Wegner said they typically do not have any problems on Christmas Day.

“Everybody looks forward to it,” Wegner said.

Fry has been in the Work Release program for about 10 months and said she is sentenced to stay there until next October.

She said she’s grateful to be in a program that allows her to work in the community and gives her the opportunity to see her mother on a regular basis.

“I’m blessed to be here,” Fry said.

And his holiday season, Fry said she was thankful to spend a real Christmas at home.

“I can’t thank them enough,” Fry said.