ORISKANY, N.Y. -- Anthony Pierce is an inmate at the Oneida County Jail, there on a parole violation for a burglary 2nd charge. He stole to support a drug habit. But a pencil in his hand leads to a much more noble pursuit.
"We have a contest in which the inmates freehandedly draw a Christmas card and typically we get anywhere from six to 12 entires a year. We pass them around the office, we left everyone look at them and we pick a winner," says Oneida County Sheriff, Robert Maciol. This year, Anthony's drawing of a Christmas tree with a sheriff's star at the top and law-enforcement-related ornaments on the tree, won. When they told Anthony that his design would grace the Oneida County Sheriff's Office's Christmas cards this year, it was a good feeling that didn't come from a syringe or a pipe.
"So when it was actually noticed, I was like, oh, that's kinda cool. I can actually tell my people that I actually won the contest for the Sheriff's department," said Pierce.
Sheriff Maciol says he supports programs that encourage inmates to make constructive use of their time behind bars.
"Most of them if not all of them, they don't want to be here. They made a mistake. They're paying the consequences for their mistake and this is one little way for us to reward them for following the rules while they're here and it's obviously, more importantly, it's a way for them to give back to the community in a positive light," says Maciol.
Roughly 150 Christmas cards featuring Pierce's design will be printed and sent to organizations with whom the Sheriff's Office does business. The Sheriff's Law Enforcement Foundation pays for it; no taxpayer dollars are involved. Pierce says, win lose or draw, all the inmates taking part, benefit.
"Keeps you, like, positive. I'm not sure if they could do it in the box or anything, but it could probably keep people out of trouble," said Pierce. "Kind of brings people together."