PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Under normal circumstances, the holiday season can be a difficult time for a lot of people. Imagine spending the holidays behind bars. 

The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office held their annual Thanksgiving dinner for inmates to make that burden a little easier Friday afternoon. Staff prepared and served many dishes that are hallmarks of the holidays. 

“We’ve been doing this for six or seven years. Probably right after I was elected sheriff, I had an idea that it’d be nice to show a little love to the people that are locked up,” said Franklin County Sheriff A.J. Smith. 

Inmates enjoyed live music by Eastpoint Church of Christ Pastor Mike Johnson and his wife Jenny. They also listened to a sermon given by Pastor Cheryl Fritsch-Middleton from the Forgotten Coast Community Church. Inmates say it’s hard being away from home during the holidays, but celebrations like this help boost morale. 

“It’s a great thing that the Sheriff does for everybody and it impacts me,” said Franklin County Jail Inmate Eric Hathaway. “It makes me want to think better about life. Everybody’s out here together and it’s just a great thing.”

They also appreciate all of the volunteers and staff’s work. 

“I feel more blessed and connected than I did to society because they have volunteers that come in and do so much for us,” said Franklin County Jail Inmate Leslie Fennell. 

Smith says it’s important to show the inmates love and that reformation is possible, and many of them are working towards that. 

“I’m just trying to get home to my mother and my kids, get a job and work on myself and do good,” said Franklin County Jail Inmate Heather Dasher. “We’ve all messed up in our lives at one time or another, but there are good people out here. They do care. They do give you the effort to want to try to do better for yourself.”

Not only did the sheriff’s office staff prepare and serve the Thanksgiving feast, they also bought the food with their own money.