Christmas Tough For Inmates, Helpers


Christmas is a tough time of the year for those who are in prison. And, it’s a tough time of the year for those who are trying to help them.

Ray Slatton is the director of Greater Wausau Christian Services, and the jail chaplain for Marathon County, “I think the emotional aspect of it becomes greater during this time of the year. Because this is not a job where you just go in and flip a switch on. You’re dealing with a lot of people, a lot of emotions, a lot of loss, a lot of grief.”

Rev. Slatton and his team of volunteers are working hard, buying, wrapping and delivering gifts for more than 80 children of the prisoners they serve. Rita Jirikovic says most of them lack basic literacy skills, “So many of them could not even read, and if they could read, they could not comprehend what they were reading. They lack self-esteem. When you go into the jail to teach or help anybody, you’ve got to see good in all of them.”

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Another volunteer, Sally Scinto-Reinertson, says most of the prisoners never got many Christmas gifts themselves, “We dispose of people. We push them to the side. The wealthy are in one area, and the poor in the other. When I teach in jail, I often will wear an orange sweater because they’re in orange jumpsuits. So they see that we are all equal.”

The message of Christian equality is one that Rev. Slatton shares with a simple question, “How many inmates are in this room? And they start counting, I say, stop counting, there are no inmates, there are people. People say, you know, until you said that, I didn’t really see light at the end of the tunnel.”

And seeing the light can be harder than it should be this time of the year.