News Releases

Chowchilla Family Express, CDCR Celebrate First Year Anniversary of Successful Partnership to Bring Children, Families to Visit Incarcerated Mothers

Program provides free transportation to help better unite inmate families
Chowchilla – The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and the Chowchilla Family Express (CFE) today celebrated the first year of serving children and families of inmates incarcerated at the two women’s prisons in Chowchilla. The weekly bus
program, which began in March 2007, helps inmates and their families remain connected during incarceration. Nearly 2,400 children and family members have visited their mothers as part of this innovative program. 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 every Sunday.
“We are providing new and innovative rehabilitative programs for our offenders that are designed to improve their outcomes,” said CDCR Secretary Jim Tilton. “This program is in recognition of how valuable family reunification is to the welfare of children and the eventual post-prison success of inmates.”

“We are excited about the many successes so far and the ongoing dedication by the Chowchilla Family Express because it provides yet another rehabilitative option for so many women offenders, said Wendy Still, CDCR Associate Director, Female Offender Programs and Services, who also 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 traveling 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 partents demonstrate lower rates of recidivism and higher rates of family reunification when they are released.

An important part of 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.

“I love this work,” said Eric Debode, Program Director for the Chowchilla Family Express. “It is so gratifying to be a part of something so positive in the lives of children and families. The program is successful because it is so simple–the people are enthusiastic about coming to visit their loved ones and we give them a ride. Through this program, the state of California is helping families stay together–and increasing the likelihood of successful reentry.”