For jail inmates, families and staff, no day is more difficult than Christmas, says the Washington Post. The absence of a loved one is more acute, the guilt is sharper, and tensions are highest. Staffs try to make the best of a bad situation by arranging extended visiting hours, better meals, and added religious and psychological services. There is a delicate balance to find in celebrating a holiday that hurts while encouraging behavioral changes and reinforcing family commitments.
One example described by the Post: 587 men and women spent Christmas in the Arlington, Va. jail. Thirty-one sheriff’s deputies were on duty. Lt. Bruce Black, shift commander, said they were careful not to exacerbate inmates’ stress by blanketing the facility with holiday decorations that would impose false cheerfulness. “It could have a negative effect,” he said. “Holidays are a time when family members come together. They’re supposed to be joyous.” Having special meals and extended visiting hours is part of the effort to rehabilitate inmates. “I think it is therapeutic when they see the position they’ve placed themselves in — in relation to what their family has to do to see them,” he said. “There’s some soul-searching going on.”