Parole Project client Jeff Haggins with his parents in front of a Christmas tree

Home for the Holidays

December 2020 saw 61 Parole Project clients celebrate the holidays as free persons for the first time in decades. Jeff Haggins spent Christmas at home with his mother and father for the first time in 24 years. Paul Will drew upon 20 years of incarceration experience and the spiritual growth that resulted from it in his address to a congregation at a Christmas service. Lloyd Jarrow spent his off days being a photographer’s assistant to his fiancée, who was doing photo shoots of families dressed in their holiday best.

Paul Stone was 15 when he went to prison with a life sentence. He was released in December after 33 years of incarceration and spent Christmas day with a sibling and a few old family friends. “It was really wonderful to be in my sister’s house for Christmas,” Paul said.  “We prayed together, made supper and talked about how grateful we were to have this chance to be together again after so many years.” His favorite part of the day was watching the grandchildren of a family friend open their presents. “I never thought I’d see that again. It was really an emotional moment for me watching those kids. I could feel how happy they were.”  Stone, who is looking forward to more family events and holidays expressed his gratitude for being present among loved ones on Christmas day.  “If I’m blessed I’ll be able to experience more holidays like this. If not, I’m just thankful I got to do a real Christmas again before I pass.”

Many clients, like Warren Palmer, celebrated the holidays in the same way countless others did during the pandemic, on Zoom.  “Fortunately, I got familiar with Zoom during the first few weeks of programming at Parole Project,” he said. “It’s been 30 years since I was with my family for Christmas and even though I was in New Orleans I was able to meet up with my people in Atlanta, Georgia, and Yazoo, Mississippi, for a virtual celebration.  It was beautiful.”  

Every holiday there are always a handful of residential clients who don’t have family members to visit. They have either lost touch with family and friends they used to have, or the families lack access to technology to visit virtually.  For many of our older clients, they have simply outlived loved ones during several decades of incarceration.  As we have before, Parole Project was committed to making their holidays special by providing a meal, in person visits, and social support.

Lloyd, a Parole Project client, poses for a picture while on break from assisting his fiancée, a professional photographer, with her holiday photoshoot
Parole Project client Paul Will, a graduate of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and an ordained minister, told his story to a local congregation during a Christmas service

Photo caption: Parole Project client Jeff Haggins joined his mother and father at home for Christmas for the first time in 24 years