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Don’t tell the kids, but Santa is a correctional officer

MTC Santa Party 3The screams said it all: “We want Santa!” roared more than 150 little voices in the basement cafeteria at St. James and John school in East Baltimore.

And sure enough, as if on cue, the big bearded man arrived. What the kids didn’t know is that minutes earlier, Santa had entered in a correctional officer’s uniform. MTC Santa Party 1

For years, the dedicated staff at Metropolitan Transition Center, the former State Pen whose 200 year old tower looms over East Baltimore just above downtown, have provided the closest school to the six-facility State prison complex a special holiday treat: a hot breakfast, gifts for every child, and, of course, time on Santa’s lap.

“What a wonderful tradition the correctional staff has provided,” beamed Dr. LaUanah King-Cassell, longtime principal of St. James and John, which this year added a middle school when other nearby schools closed. MTC Santa Party 2

Santa, for his part, loved every minute of it. Veteran correctional officer Maurice Smith is known around MTC as the keeper of many good projects, including the beautiful linear greenspace, funded by the TKF foundation several years ago, that became a first-of-its-kind in an urban prison. But Officer Smith says nothing tops the annual Breakfast With Santa for the students. “It lets them see correctional officers in a positive light,” says Smith, whose colleagues, both uniformed and non-uniformed, stood by, hugging children, taking pictures, and thoroughly enjoying the moment.

The annual party includes a hot meal, books, puzzles, and flash cards for all the kids, and, of course, a hoist up onto Santa’s lap.

Thanks again to the good employees of the Metropolitan Transition Center for keeping a positive holiday tradition going, and for letting the public see what DPSCS employees already know: that Public Safety employees are dedicated servants with a heart.