Sunday, September 25, 2022

Football and Thanksgiving dinner: These inmates may get a ‘sense of normalcy’ this holiday

Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail (WYDaily/Andrew Harris)
Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail (WYDaily/Andrew Harris)

For local inmates at the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail, being incarcerated doesn’t necessarily mean missing out on some special holiday moments.

This Thanksgiving, the regional jail will give each inmate a real turkey dinner, a free phone call home and time outside of their cell to watch football.

First, each inmate can make one 10-minute phone call completely free of charge between Thanksgiving morning and Sunday, jail Superintendent Tony Pham said.

There are indigent inmates here who do not have the resources to speak with their loved ones on the outside and I wanted to give them that one small moment to do so,” Pham said.

Phone calls at the VPRJ, which serves Williamsburg, James City County and York County, cost 20 cents per minute. The free call will also be offered during Christmastime.

At 8 a.m. Thanksgiving, the jail will serve a Thanksgiving brunch, including turkey sausage, turkey ham, scrambled eggs, cereal and milk, fruit, a biscuit and coffee.

At 1 p.m., inmates will eat a real midday turkey dinner, complete with sliced turkey, mashed potatoes with gravy, stuffing, green beans, cranberry sauce and a dinner roll.

Regular jail meals cost 79 cents each, compared to $2.49 for the Thanksgiving dinner.

At 5 p.m., the jail will serve a snack including a turkey sandwich, apple pie and ice cream.

Besides the dinner, inmates who have been on good behavior will be allowed to remain out past the pre-set lockdown time at 10 p.m. to enjoy the Thanksgiving football game.

“Safely securing and confining individuals committed to our custody does not preclude me from attempting to provide a small and temporary sense of normalcy for individuals here,” Pham wrote in an email.

VPRJ inmates worked to fill trays during a lunch shift in February 2017. VPRJ policy does not allow photos to be taken of inmates' faces without written permission. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)
VPRJ inmates worked to fill trays during a lunch shift in February 2017. VPRJ policy does not allow photos to be taken of inmates’ faces without written permission. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)

Inmates who are in the disciplinary section of the jail will not be able to watch the football game or receive the free phone calls. Actions that can send an inmate to disciplinary include fighting, failure to follow orders, having contraband and more.

The jail also did something special for some inmates on Veterans Day.

Pham said the jail provided a catered meal to staff who are veterans through a partnership with the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post.

The VFW also purchased pre-set gift packages, which were delivered to inmates who are veterans. The jail receives commissions for the gift packages and donates the money back to the VFW so they can reuse the money for similar Christmas gifts.

“The holiday extras are a small way for me to provide a sense of normalcy in an otherwise difficult environment,” Pham said.

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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