Inmate Labor To Help Set Up Fantasy Of Lights

Holiday preparations are already underway for one of the longest-running displays in Wichita Falls.  Newschannel 6 found out that for some of the people who help set up the Fantasy of Lights, the labor is much preferable to the alternative -- being behind bars.

This morning Wichita County Commissioners approved the use of inmate labor to help both Midwestern State and the Fantasy of Lights.

"It's a non-profit.  Inmate labor's available to non-profits with the approval of the Commissioners' Court.  They do a lot of good charity work with inmate labor," said Wichita County Chief Deputy Sheriff Kevin Callahan.

Inmates from the Wichita County jail have helped with Fantasy of Lights before.  Usually the work parties are made up of inmates in long-term custody.

"They generally enjoy helping people.  They kinda feel like it's helpin' pay their debt to society back, and they seem to be highly motivated," Callahan said.

So motivated, he says, that they do a really good job.

"We've never had complaints.  They've always gotten compliments," he said.

A Fantasy of Lights committee member says the work the inmates will do doesn't require expertise; they'll be setting up a lot of smaller figurines and Christmas trees, along with other general labor.

"People seem to really enjoy having that labor out there, and they seem to like havin' a connection with the non-profits even after they leave," Callahan said.

Fantasy of Lights isn't the only holiday event inmates have helped with.  They've also delivered presents to Santa Trees around town, and have also brought gifts directly to orphanages.

"They do get into the holiday spirit doing those types of things," Callahan said.

The Sheriff's Office will be working closely with MSU Police Chief Dan Williams to make sure the labor arrangements are safe for everyone involved, and everyone on campus.

Callahan couldn't go into details of the security that will be in place while the inmates are working on campus.  They'll be doing most of the labor the last week of this month, and the lights will be turned on Friday, December 3rd.

Spencer Blake, Newschannel 6