It's the night before Christmas, but it's awfully hard to tell. The stockings are hung by the window without much thought and there isn't much hope that anyone will care.
Some of the children will be snug in a bed, while others will drift off to sleep on a mattress on a concrete floor.No visions of sugar plums, no Christmas wishes for these children. Most of them are sad, but some of them have decided if Christmas can forget them, they will forget Christmas.
"It doesn't feel like Christmas, not one bit," said Ruben, 17, a resident of the Salt Lake Detention Center. "To me it's nothing; it's just another day."
But Ruben has an advantage over most of the teens who will spend Christmas in detention - this is his second holiday season behind bars. He's getting used to it.
But ask Sandra about spending Christmas in the youth jail and tears fill her eyes, emotion chokes her voice and she turns her head.
"It really hurts," the 17-year-old said. "It's like the holidays aren't really here. I cry every time I think about it."
Shawna, 17, who tries not to think about it by keeping herself busy, said it's hard not to feel bad when waking up to brick on Christmas morning.
"Regardless of what people may think . . . they're still kids and it's not a good place to be for Christmas," said Anne Nelsen, center director. Her staff and volunteers have tried to ease the pain the youngsters feel being locked up for the holidays.
Volunteers from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints coordinated a number of activities that resulted in four beautiful handmade quilts. Tuesday night the teens presented them to homeless families.
Som, 15, said decorating and giving the quilts was one of the few reminders that today is different than any of the others.
"I know I did the crime and I gotta be in here, but it's depressing," he said.
For teens sinking in their own sorrow, the giving provides a lift, even if it is temporary.
"I can relate to how they feel," said Sandra, whose two-year-old daughter will spend Christmas without her mother. "I'd want someone to do something like this for me."
Brian, 16, said the activities and small gifts provided by volunteers will "have to do." He's not proud of why he's in detention, but he's proud of what he's doing while he's there.
"It feels good doing something," he said. "It gives someone else a Christmas."
The volunteers hope that teaching the teens to create instead of destroy will not only give their spirits a lift, but their egos as well.
"We're doing something for society, rather than against it," said Mike Hunter, a counselor who came up with the quilting idea. "That's a pretty big step for some of these people."