Some say laughter is the best medicine, but healing hugs can be just as effective, as shown with the Get on the Bus visit program.
Through wide smiles and a flood of happy tears, families of the incarcerated travel from all over the state to enjoy specialized visits with their loved ones.
The Get on the Bus program is a partnership between CDCR and the Center for Restorative Justice Works (CRJW).
The program’s primary mission is to strengthen family connections, both during and after incarceration.
Regular visitation between children and their incarcerated parents is proven to lower recidivism and support family reunification.
“Programs that help with giving hope and community are crucial in ensuring rehabilitation and lowering recidivism rates. Get on the Bus has such a unique response in promoting rehabilitation in that is serves as a reminder for those doing time that there is someone waiting for and thinking of them,” said bus Program Coordinator Kristal Corona.
GOTB provides transportation and travel bags to children and their caregivers, board games and bonding activities, meals all day, a printed family portrait, face-painting, art supplies, and toys – all completely free of charge.
CRJW also provides post-visit counseling and other resources.
A visit from Get on the Bus stops at six institutions
Over the last several weeks, GOTB made stops at the following CDCR facilities:
- California Institution for Women (CIW)
- High Desert State Prison (HDSP)
- Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF)
- California State Prison, Sacramento (SAC)
- Folsom State Prison (FSP)
- San Quentin State Prison (SQ)
For some institutions, this was the first time the event was held in-person since 2019. Following a brief hiatus due to COVID-19 restrictions, last year’s GOTB events were mostly coordinated and hosted virtually. In some cases, due to various circumstances, the visiting families had not been able to see or hug their incarcerated loved ones in more than ten years.
“Healing. That’s the one word that replays on the travel home. Truly in the moment there are so many big emotions of excitement, joy, and pain, but there is also a great sense of alleviation from families,” Corona said. “Children, of course, have some of the biggest emotions.”
After visiting for several hours, kids and their guardians leave with full hearts and bellies, plus a small gift and letter from their parent to take home. Furthermore, they depart with the hope of reuniting with their parent again at home after successfully completing their rehabilitative programs.
Story by Tessa Outhyse, Public Information Officer I
Office of Public and Employee Communications
Photos by Tessa Outhyse, Lt. Jon Sieberg, AA/PIO, HDSP
Lt. William Newborg, AA/PIO, and CRM Ricky Dela Cruz, CIW