“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas……” Every year during the Christmas season at the Seagoville, Texas, Federal Prison, the compound is changed into a Christmas spectacular, with an array of decorations among the seven different units. Each unit is entered into a decorating contest to compete for the prize of a special new-release movie and popcorn in the auditorium. Watching a new release movie and receiving “free” popcorn is a very big deal in prison, so most units go all out in trying to win the award.
This year my unit decided to do the theme from the movie “The Grinch.” My unit has 150 two-man rooms, a number of 6-12 man rooms, two levels, two sides, and sleeps 375 inmates. It is the largest unit on the compound. In other words, there is a lot of space that needs to be filled with decorations. But we also have many more inmates that help out with decorating. The rules stipulate that any material found on the compound can be used for decorating, except wood, plastic, and any other dangerous or hazardous material. Basically, the only material we are allowed to use is paper, cardboard, soda cans, and paint (which the unit counselor can buy if asked).
With the artistry and creative minds that are on this compound, just a few supplies and materials are all one needs to make a Christmas spectacular. And let me tell you, it was more than just a Christmas spectacular in my unit – it was a Christmas production as well. Here is a list of some of the decorations and events that happened in my unit:
- Each room was turned into a Who-ville home, with both a cardboard mailbox and a porch light that could light up, using a handheld commissary reading light
- Street signs and “Welcome to Who-ville” entryways
- Multiple Christmas murals painted on the walls
- A 20-foot tall Christmas tree made out of 2,000 soda cans, with shredded paper and presents underneath it.
- A cardboard fireplace protruding from the wall
- A 16-person choir
- Shredded paper falling from the second floor to make it look like it was snowing
- Giant 3D snowflakes hung across the balcony
- A Grinch lair
- An inmate emulating Cindy Lou’s great grandson, giving a tour while telling a story to the judges
- Colored paper covering the walls
- A giant 20-foot tall blow-up snowman made out of paper (I’m still not sure how they were able to blow it up)
After a month of planning, organizing and decorating, my unit was ready for the show-and-tell and to be judged by the “big wigs” of the compound. With snow gently falling from our balcony, Cindy Lou’s great grandson gave the tour and told a story while the choir sang in the background. It was more or less a production that was well rehearsed. It took about 15 minutes from start to finish with a lot of oohing and aahing from the judges the entire time. Needless to say, they were all very impressed and said this was the best overall showing in all the years of the decorating contest. It was quite the scene to see.
Yes, you guessed it……we earned first place honors this year. And yes, this was the highlight of my Christmas this year. No presents or visits from any family and friends, but still a good time with inmates who have become friends and family while here, and together we made this Christmas a positive experience.
Most important of all, some of us celebrated the birth of baby Jesus in this dark place and know that even here His light can be seen by those of us who claim Him as our Savior. He was born for all people, including those who are incarcerated. Take a few minutes and pray for those who need to know him, inside and outside the prison walls, and may God give you His peace as you begin a new year.