News Releases

Corrections, Chowchilla Family Express Set Second Round of Free Bus Rides for Children to Visit Incarcerated Mothers

Program Served Nearly 1,600 Children, Family Members in First Six Months
CHOWCHILLA – Busloads of children, their caregivers and other family members continue to arrive at the two women’s prison in Chowchilla every Sunday, thanks to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and the Chowchilla Family Express. The second round of the weekly program began last month to help female inmates and their families remain connected during incarceration. The program sends an average of six buses each month from northern and southern California. The first round of scheduled bus trips ended Sept. 30, and the new schedule runs through June 2008. Since the program began on March 25, 2007, 1,581 children and adults have participated.

Funded by the CDCR with a $400,000 annual budget, the bus program brings children to their parents housed in Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW) and Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) from various parts of California. The program recognizes how valuable family reunification is to the welfare of children and the eventual post-prison success of inmates.

“We are excited about the Chowchilla Family Express because it provides yet another rehabilitative option for so many women offenders,” said Wendy Still, Associate Director for Female Offender Programs and Services, who noted that the majority of those inmates are mothers. “This bus program provides unique opportunities for female offenders to reunite with their children, who are in most cases hundreds of miles away. We remain committed to extending our responsibility for female offenders beyond their incarceration to improve their chances of success when they return to their communities.”

More than half of the women in state prisons never see their children during their incarceration. Some of the children or other family members who ride the bus have not seen their mothers in more than a year. National Institute of Corrections research shows that children who have regular parent visits demonstrate better emotional and social adjustment as well as a lower degree of juvenile delinquency. In addition, their parents demonstrate lower rates of recidivism and of higher rates of family reunification when they are released. An important part a female offender’s rehabilitation is building and strengthening systems of family support and family involvement while she is in prison. Their support can enhance their eventual return and success in their community.

“Visitation programs are a cost-effective crime prevention tool,” said Eric DeBode, Executive Director for the Chowchilla Family Express. “By helping to maintain family bonds, the Chowchilla Family Express will help parents and children stay together and hopefully reduces the likelihood of people re-offending—and that’s good for everyone.”

“This program is a great example of a deeply felt need met by exactly the right solution,” said DeBode.

For more information on the Chowchilla Family Express, call (866) 91-VISIT (866-918-4748) or visit

Bus Schedule, October 2007-June 2008

Sunday Oct. 7, 2007            San Dimas

Sunday Oct. 14, 2007          San Diego/Fresno/Madera

Sunday Oct. 21, 2007          Perris

Sunday Oct. 28, 2007          Santa Rosa/San Francisco/San Jose

Sunday Nov. 4, 2007           Los Angeles

Sunday Nov. 18, 2007         San Bernardino

Sunday Nov. 25, 2007         Redding/Chico/Sacramento/Stockton/Merced

Sunday Dec. 2, 2007           Long Beach

Sunday Dec. 9, 2007           South Central Los Angeles

Sunday Dec. 16, 2007         Antelope Valley/Bakersfield/Visalia

Sunday Jan. 6, 2008            Oakland/Modesto

Sunday Jan. 13, 2008          Anaheim/ Panorama City

Sunday Jan. 20, 2008          Santa Barbara/Oxnard/Santa Clarita

Sunday Jan. 27, 2008          San Dimas/West Covina/Monterrey Park

Sunday Feb. 3, 2008           San Diego/Fresno/Madera

Sunday Feb. 10, 2008         Perris

Sunday Feb. 24, 2008         Santa Rosa/San Francisco/San Jose

Sunday March 2, 2008        Los Angeles

Sunday March 9, 2008        San Bernardino

Sunday March 16, 2008      Chico/Sacramento/Stockton/Merced

Sunday March 30, 2008      Long Beach

Sunday April 6, 2008          South Central Los Angeles

Sunday April 13, 2008        Antelope Valley/Bakersfield/Visalia

Sunday April 20, 2008        Oakland/Modesto

Sunday April 27, 2008        Anaheim/Panorama City

Sunday May 4, 2008          Santa Barbara/Oxnard/Santa Clarita

Sunday May 18, 2008        San Dimas/West Covina/Monterrey Park

Sunday June 1, 2008         San Diego/Fresno/Madera

Sunday June 8, 2008          Perris

Sunday June 15, 2008        Santa Rosa/San Francisco/San Jose

Sunday June 22, 2008        Los Angeles

Sunday June 29. 2008        San Bernardino

Background: As part of its comprehensive female offender reform efforts, the CDCR created a strategic plan in 2006 to improve outcomes for female offenders. It implemented gender-appropriate operational practices, programming, medical, mental health and dental care, and “wrap-around” treatment programs and services. CDCR, using previously cited research, found that female offenders differ from their male counterparts in a variety of ways. For example, a female offender is likely to have been the primary caretaker of young children at the time of her arrest, to have experienced physical and/or sexual abuse, and have distinct physical and mental health needs.