Held for the holiday | CraigDailyPress.com

Held for the holiday

Difficulty of jail life compounded for Moffat County Jail inmates on Christmas

Joshua Roberts

— Christmas morning didn’t include the traditional trappings of gifts and family for Cindy Reynolds, a corporal working for three years now at the Moffat County Jail.

Instead, she started her day about 6:20 a.m. by greeting each of the jail’s 92 male and female inmates. Christmas wasn’t the same as usual for them, either.

“I try to talk to as many as I can,” said Reynolds, the senior officer on duty Tuesday. “It helps me judge the mood in the jail.

“It’s real somber today. People are really quiet. : I think a lot of them are thinking about their families and the other places they could be.”

Although millions of people celebrated Christmas morning by enjoying a day off work, exchanging gifts and being with family members, no such perks exist for the jail’s inmates.

Most of the inmates are incarcerated for petty offenses and misdemeanors, though some are being held for narcotics violations and violent crimes. Their holiday was limited Tuesday to a special breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Being in jail isn’t easy, some of the inmates said, particularly on a holiday like Christmas. But, as inmate Randon Nakai pointed out, the choices that led inmates here were their own.

“It’s hard,” said Nakai, a 28-year-old Utah man who was sentenced to jail for resisting arrest and drug use, “but it’s just something we got to do because of the choices we made.”

Nakai, who is being held in Craig for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, spoke Tuesday morning from a room in the jail used for substance abuse treatment, church services and other activities. On the wall behind him was a dry-erase board with the message, “Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”

On the outside, Nakai has a fiancee and a 7-year-old son. They are never far from his mind, particularly on days like today.

“At times, you get kind of lonely,” said Nakai, who is scheduled to be released Jan. 6. “I wonder about my family, if my boy is happy, if he got enough presents.”

Nakai was able to buy his son a PlayStation 3 for Christmas.

The gifts inmates may receive are limited.

Reynolds said friends and family members may give them “whites” – as in socks and T-shirts – money for the commissary and cards and letters.

Visitors are allowed Saturdays and Sundays.

Inmate Jesus Chavez spent part of his Christmas preparing the jail’s holiday dinner. Chavez, a Chihuahua, Mexico, native, is being held for misdemeanor assault; he is scheduled to be deported Jan. 2.

Although he enjoys working in the kitchen and has made “good friends” while in jail, he also misses loved ones on the outside. He said he was thinking of his son, a 1-year-old in Craig, and whether he liked the clothes and toys his father gave him for Christmas.

“It’s hard, and you can feel sad,” Chavez said.

For Sharyn Sanborn, a 46-year-old Craig woman being held on an assortment of charges, this year marked the second time she’s spent Christmas in jail.

The first came in 2004.

“It was devastating,” she said. “I thought my world was going to end. I didn’t realize how much my family mattered to me until then.”

Some tough breaks coupled with bad choices led her back to jail. Although she’s looking at tough times ahead – she faces 10 drug-related charges and a possible 72 years in prison, she said – Sanborn is in good spirits. Especially today, a day that honors her savior.

She fights back tears when talking about her family, her mistakes and her faith, but tries to remain positive.

“I’m a good person,” said Sanborn, who’s battled a chemical dependency the past several years. “I’m a beautiful, good person, and I’m loved by my family and a lot of people. : Plus, I know I’m a child of God.

“I am not a murderer. I did not come from negative intentions. I made a mistake.”

And that’s a common thread on a day like today, Reynolds said. Inmates owning up to mistakes – mistakes that don’t make them any less of a person, she said.

“These guys made mistakes,” Reynolds said. “We’re not here to judge them. We treat them fairly. We treat them like humans.”

Joshua Roberts can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or jroberts@craigdailypress.com.