Aspen inmates find way to celebrate |

Aspen inmates find way to celebrate

Wyatt Haupt Jr.
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado
Paul Conrad The Aspen Times

ASPEN ” The last place most anyone would want to be on Thanksgiving Day is behind bars. But that is exactly where about a dozen inmates found themselves Thursday ” sitting inside the Pitkin County jail on one of the most revered holidays on the calendar.

While most of the inmates kept to themselves, some spending time on the telephone or reading in their cells, others seemed to take it all in stride, feeling that better days were ahead for them.

“I would rather be in Rifle,” said Bryan, as he sat and watched the halftime show of the Tennessee Titans and Detroit Lions football game. “But everybody here treats me good.”

He said there was no point in whining about his present situation, which Bryan felt was temporary.

“I am thankful for still having a life and … or the things that I have,” he said. “I hope to spend Christmas with my family.”

On the other side of the 26-bed jail sat Martin, an equally optimistic soul, who said that Thanksgiving “is another Thursday for me only knowing there are other Thanksgivings for me” in the future once out of jail.

Martin said that he was most thankful for the “opportunity to be able to speak with my brother” this holiday season. He spent the first half of his day writing a letter, reading a newspaper and watching some television.

And, in keeping with tradition at the jail, inmates were served a turkey meal complete with stuffing and gravy. Aspen Valley Hospital kitchen staffers prepare jail meals, in accordance with its regular daily menu.

The only exception is breakfast, which is self-served. That typically consists of cereal, and related products.

Pitkin County jailer Jim De Berge, who has worked at the facility since August 1983, said he’s “always tried to make it better for the inmates,” and the Thanksgiving meal plays a large part.

While this year’s affair was scaled back a bit, De Berge has been known to break out tablecloth-lined tables and serve the meal buffet style. This year’s meal was served on trays, as is typically the case with hospital food.

“Over time, as I have less time, I have pursued it differently,” he said.

However, the turkey meal is not limited to the inmates and jail personnel. Billy Tomb, jail supervisor, said that the meal has been opened up to all law enforcement personnel who work the holiday.

About 30 turkey meals were served Thursday afternoon, said Tomb who has also been working at the jail since August 1983.

“It lightens the atmosphere,” he said.

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