Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Last week I posted the first half of my adventure in my local sheriff’s department’s citizen academy. The second half continues this week. What does that have to do with Christmas? I wasn’t sure at first. But by the end of this blog, it all came together. Sort of. Read on and see....

As a writer of thriller and mystery romance, I was very excited about the investigative services night of the sheriff’s citizen academy, and I wasn’t disappointed. We started the night learning how the sheriff’s detectives do their jobs. Their work load is amazing, and judging from the many thick binders that make up the average case, it’s much more about legwork and paperwork than the dramatic stuff you see on television. The Crime Scene Investigators followed with a boatload of useful information--and no, it’s nothing like CSI on TV, although I’ll bet you knew that. ;) The third part of the evening featured a presentation from the coroner, complete with a tour of the morgue. Fascinating. It was much smaller than I’d imagined for a county of about half a million people. And, yes, there was a bit of a smell emanating from the cooler.

The next week we learned all about drugs and gangs. Talk about an eye opening experience! Gangs and their livelihood (selling drugs) are present in all areas of our country, including my county, and we learned enough about recruitment and gang activity to make the straightest hair curl. Yet we barely scratched the surface.

The week after that brought us a behind the scenes tour of the courthouse. Many people have the chance to see the courtrooms and jury selection rooms, but we were lucky enough to get a peek into judges’ chambers, security stations and holding cells. And we followed the route a defendant would take to the courtroom. I got the opportunity to test out some of the restraints unruly defendants have to wear in court, like a leg brace worn under clothing that makes it impossible to run and a very attractive spit hood that covered the lower half of my face. I looked fabulous.

Our tour of the jail took the next two weeks of the citizen academy, and a packed two weeks it was. My county has one maximum security jail, one medium security jail and a work-release jail. We toured the first two, which house all inmates awaiting trial or sentencing and some inmates serving their sentence. The maximum security jail looks like the stereotypical jail. Small blocks of cells with one common area in the middle. Bars on the doors. White concrete block walls and tile floors. The medium security jail is much more modern with dormitory housing (one big room with bunk beds, tables, television, etc.). Instead of bars there are windows. Inmates can work out or play basketball in a recreation room. It’s still a jail, but it feels a bit less intimidating, and the inmates have a little more freedom.

The second week of our jail experience included learning about the various types of restraints used. Again, I got the chance to try on some of the fashion. This time I was handcuffed to a waist chain and my ankles were shackled. Good times. We also took part in shaking down a cell block. Deputies cleared out the inmates, then we searched the common area and each cell for contraband. We didn’t find much, but we heard some stories about jailhouse hooch and toothbrushes sharpened into weapons.

Which brings me to Christmas (what a segue!). There are a myriad of places I would rather spend Christmas than in a jail cell, no matter how much jailhouse hooch is included. What is your favorite place to spend the holidays? What is your dream place? If you could travel back or forward in time, what place would you choose then?

If you answer, your name will be entered in a drawing tomorrow morning to win a copy of Christmas Awakening. Check at the end of the comments for the winner. Christmas...an old landmark house...ghosts...a murder mystery, what could be more Christmasy than that? It is part of a three-book series I wrote with Rebecca York (Christmas Spirit) and Patricia Rosemoor (Christmas Delivery) that is set in the fictious town of Jenkins Cove, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. And for those of you who don’t win or who want the whole series, all Christmas books are 40% off at eHarlequin right now. How cool is that? That’s only 2.99 for each Christmas Intrigue. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to take advantage. Click here!

Hey, Jenkins Cove would be a fabulous place to spend the holidays! Beats jail any day!

Posted by Ann Voss Peterson
Author of Christmas Awakening

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