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Inmate drawings show emotion

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Posted: Thursday, June 14, 2007 12:00 am

You can't judge a book by its cover, and you can't judge an inmate by his jumpsuit.

Six inmates at the Kittitas County Jail recently participated in an inmate-only drawing contest for Memorial Day. The result was an outpouring of sensitivity toward America and its veterans.

The jail tries to keep the inmates active with things like drawing contests because it reduces the tension from having 107 of them housed in a facility originally planned for 45 beds.

One drawing participant, Jerry Pearson, has a relative who served in Vietnam, but he said his drawing was inspired by his mother who passed away.

"I remembered my mom's cemetery, and it has that fence around it," he said, recalling a visit to the cemetery on Mother's Day two years ago. "I just kind of went from there."

Pearson's drawing features a cemetery dotted with gravestones of names he collected from his fellow inmates. An American flag flies amid the graves with "No. 1 USA" etched across the blue-colored sky.

Below the drawing Pearson scrawled: God bless and for those that did not make it, we love you too.

Other drawings echoed Pearson's sentiments of gratitude toward America's veterans for defending freedom. Perhaps freedom with these inmates, once taken away, becomes something to be cherished.

Kyle Romaneski drew portraits of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Even Correction Center Lt. Bert Marx was impressed when he saw the dexterity of the artist.

The bald eagle was a popular choice for the artists. With just a pencil, one man drew an imposing, intricate figure of the eagle crying over America's fallen veterans.

"You wouldn't think the inmates would be that sensitive, but they are," Marx said.

In addition to drawing competitions, the jail puts on Nerf baseball tournaments and free throw shooting contests to help keep the tension down.

"They love it. They're very competitive," Marx said. "They compete with anything we do. A lot of kids haven't won anything and it builds their self-esteem."

Twenty years ago, 30 inmates was considered crowded. Since then, legislative changes and a law enforcement crackdown on crime has bulged numbers at the jail.

"It's not the good ol' boys getting drunk on weekends anymore," Marx said.

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