Program brings children, incarcerated mothers together at four correctional facilities, lowers risk of recidivism by participating moms.
SACRAMENTO -The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and the Center for Restorative Justice Works are again working together to bring children to visit their incarcerated mothers on Mother’s Day. The female offenders are housed at one of four state adult and juvenile facilities. The adult prisons are the California Institution for Women, Central California Women’s Facility, and Valley State Prison for Women. The juvenile facility is the Ventura Youth Correctional Facility.
The children, who are accompanied by loved ones and guardians, will visit today as part of the ninth annual Get on the Bus program. What began as one bus with 17 children has become a statewide event, and this year, 35 buses filled with more than 650 children and their guardians will travel from 17 cities throughout California to the prisons in southern and central California. The mothers have to be on good conduct for one year to earn a visit from their children.
When released from prison, those mothers are less inclined to return to crime because of the ties they have maintained with their children, according to most industry researchers.
“Every child wants to see, hug and talk with their mother, whether they are incarcerated or not,” said Wendy Still, Associate Director of CDCR Female Offender Programs and Services. “Get on the Bus helps moms and kids stay connected. This benefits these children by lowering the likelihood that their mother will return to prison.”
Get on the Bus provides free transportation for children and their caregivers, travel bags for the children, comfort care bags for the caregivers, a photograph of each child with his or her mother, and meals for the day. The meals include breakfast, snacks on the bus, lunch at the prison, and dinner on the way home. On the bus trip home, following the visit with the mothers, each child receives a teddy bear with a letter from their mother as well as post-event counseling. Children with mothers in prison are usually cared for by relatives, often grandparents, who are often unable to make the drive due to distance or expense. The program is funded by donations from churches, schools, agencies, family foundations, grants and other organizations.
“It’s all about the children,” said Sister Suzanne Jabro of the Center for Restorative Justice Works, who has spearheaded this event over the years. “With Get on the Bus our goal is to raise awareness regarding the needs of these children of incarcerated mothers.”