Christmas in the Big House

Out of Stillwater's 1,300 or so inmates, 80 attended this year's holiday service, which Chaplain Steve Hokonson calls "pretty good": "You're talking Monday evening. Monday Night Football--there's a little bit of competition there."

At Stillwater, inmates also have the option of attending a program sponsored by the Salvation Army. "They come in with their musical instruments and sing Christmas carols and have a service," Hokonson explains. "They always bring gifts for the inmates; this year, it was a bag filled with lotion, a toothbrush, toothpaste, a comb, and some other personal-hygiene items." Out of the 1,300 or so inmates, 80 attended this year's service, which Hokonson calls "pretty good."

"You're talking Monday evening," he says. "Monday Night Football-- there's a little bit of competition there, unfortunately."

In addition to the service, inmates can also look forward to new calendars. "We are very grateful to Brown and Bigelow, which for years have provided us with beautiful, beautiful calendars," says Hokonson. "They donate large, scenic calendars, sports-car calendars, all kinds of calendars, which we pass out to the inmates at Christmas time.

"Obviously, calendars in prisons are important things."

And for dinner? This year the menu on Christmas day at Stillwater includes roast beef, whipped potatoes, gravy, green beans and cheesecake. The trimmings, or lack of them, don't mean so very much in Hokonson's eyes. "When it comes right down to the holidays," he says, "I think that it's very much like it is on the outside. Christmas is a stressful time whether you're on the inside or outside, although it's probably more stressful inside because of the isolation."

This year, Hokonson plans to hold a prayer vigil outside of the prison for whoever wants to come (except for, obviously, the prisoners). The purpose of the vigil, he explains, is "to remind all of us, inside and out, that our purpose here is to bring peace to the conflicts that separate us."

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