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Friday, May 6, 2016

Prison offenders helpng to light up the Linton park for the holidays

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Vincennes resident Ronnie Ikemire, an offender at Wabash Valley Correctional Facility, sets a minature Santa Claus decoration on top of a fireplace chimney at Humphrey's Park.
(By Nick Schneider) [Order this photo]
Wabash Valley Correctional Facility offender John Davis, of New Castle, says helping out with the Christmas decorations was a way for him to give back to the community during his time of incarcration. He said it felt good to do something positive.
(By Nick Schneider) [Order this photo]
A group of Wabash Valley Correctional Facility offenders have been lending a hand this week by lighting up Humphreys Park in Linton with the Christmas spirit.

Just over a dozen minimum security level offenders from WVCF's Labor Line crew have tested thousands of multi-color lights and decorations, hung them around buildings, playground equipment, and other park structures.

It's an annual tradition for the offenders to assist with decorating the park, the Roy Clark Community building, and city hall.

Offender Cluran Cohn, of Indianapolis, tests some lights prior to hanging them at Humphreys Park in Linton.
(By Nick Schneider) [Order this photo]
"The guys all like being here instead of just being at the dorm and being cooped up," said WVCF correctional officer Lisa Ball, of Linton, who helps supervise the offenders on work details like this.

Ball has been working with the Labor Line program for 14 years.

She pointed out that the decorating detail in Linton is always a favorite among the offenders.

"There's not too many things we don't put lights on here in the park," Ball said in estimating the number of lights probably is in the high thousands.

Offender Clauran Cohn, of Indianapolis and doing time at WVCF for drug dealing and Michael Vaughn, of Greenwood, serving a sentence for driving under the influence, were charged with the tedious task of testing the scores of lights strands.

They both smiled and said they were having a good time, despite the wintry chill in the air.

Another offender, Jeremy Thompson, of Tell City, said he was nearing the end of his 10-month sentence for possession of methamphetamine. With just 14 days left to serve, Thompson said he is looking forward to being back home with his family in time to celebrate Christmas.

Offender John Davis, of New Castle, who has been at WVCF since 2009 on a drug-dealing charge, said the opportunity to get out in the community and give something back is important to him.

"It makes the time go easier and you get to meet a lot of people, a lot of good people that are not the same folks that I knew in the drug world," Davis remarked.

He explained that he got addicted to prescription pain medication and he made a big mistake on one occasion that led to his incarceration.

"I sold one pill, one time and they got me for dealing (drugs)," Davis explained.

Davis was sentenced to 10 years in prison ---- meaning he has to serve five years.

With just eight months left on his sentence, Davis said he's had plenty of time to reflect on his crime and substance abuse addiction.

"I'm finally going home soon," Davis said. "This was my wake-up call."

While in prison, Davis has taken advantage of opportunities to get help.

He has completed a substance-abuse program and is in the prison's Purposeful Living Units Serve (PLUS) program.

PLUS is a faith and character-based re-entry initiative that offers offenders alternatives for rehabilitation and prepares them for re-entry into the community.

The living units are geared towards teaching core fundamental values that challenge and focus on positive reinforcement through learned behavior ---- focusing on spiritual, moral, character development and life skills, according to information from the Indiana Department of Correction.

Davis said helping out in town's like Linton is his way of giving back to society for his wrong deeds.

"It's nice to give back after being a bad person, you give back to the community and it makes you feel better," he concluded.

Ball said aside from helping the city of Linton with the annual holiday light decorating chores, the crew has already helped put up lights in the nearby Knox County community of Sandborn and Odon in Daviess County.

The crew also helps with the clean-up after many area summer and fall festivals.

They have worked on Greene County Habitat for Humanity projects and will soon be assisting at Shakamak State Park near Jasonville.

Ball explained that the Labor Line crew works seven days a week and recently has been spending a lot of time working on the Indian mounds project near Fairbanks.

They will also be helping with tuck-pointing and painting an historical building on the city of Sullivan square.

The WVCF offenders expect to wrap up their job in Linton early next week.

Humphreys Park caretaker Billy Buckallew says the extra help in decorating the park is very much appreciated.

Most of the lights have come courtesy of the Linton First Christian Church with additional donations from the city of Linton, Utilities District of Western Indiana REMC, and private individuals and businesses.

Offender Jeremy Thompson, of Tell City, adjusts a Santa decoration that was placed on the top of one of the buildings at Humphreys Park on Thursday morning. Thompson will be released prior to Christmas Day.
(By Nick Schneider) [Order this photo]
Buckallew said donations of holiday lights for the yearly project is welcomed and anyone wanting to donate can contact the Linton First Christian Church by calling 847-9535.

Wabash Valley Correctional Facility offender Michael Vaught, from Greenwood, tries to untangle a mass of holiday lights.
(By Nick Schneider) [Order this photo]

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