By Krissi Khohkobashvili, OPEC PIO

Photos by CDCR Photographer Jeff Baur

Video by CDCR TV Specialist Cam Applegate

Dozens of children got to see their moms for an early Mother’s Day earlier this month at Folsom Women’s Facility, thanks to a partnership that provides free transportation to keep kids connected with their incarcerated parents.

GOTB feature photoThe California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and Center for Restorative Justice Works teamed up once again for Get On The Bus, now in its 15th year. Thousands of volunteers and donations from community groups and faith-based organizations make the visits possible, and Program Director Hilary Carson said this year nearly 2,000 children will take part.

“Even just one visit while you’re incarcerated can improve your recidivism rate,” said Carson, looking around at the families reunited on a sunny spring day.

She added that visits have huge benefits for children as well, who experience a lot of anxiety when their parent is incarcerated.

“They can go home at the end of the day and say, ‘My mom’s OK, my dad’s OK, they love me and they care for me,’” she said.

Folsom State Prison Warden (A) Lydia Romero said keeping families connected is an important part of rehabilitation, and praised Get On The Bus for helping to bridge the gap between incarcerated parents and their children.

“It continues the family unit, it strengthens the family unit, and that’s what the offender needs when they parole,” she said. “They need that support – we all do.”

In addition to the Folsom event, Get On The Bus took place at other institutions, including the California Institution for Women (CIW) and at Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF).

Valley State Prison (VSP) celebrated an early Father’s Day with its first-ever Get On The Bus event. Nine male inmates received visits from family members, and while the crowd was small, organizers noted the excitement and gratitude were still powerful.

“This is our first Get on the Bus event and we had three weeks to put this event together,” shared Chief Deputy Warden F.P. Field III. “I am very proud of our staff and their ability to facilitate this program quickly and safely. It is important that we continue to strengthen family ties through projects like Get on the Bus. Family reunification is a cornerstone in positive programming.”

(You may not be able to view this video on a CDCR computer. Here is a Windows Media version.)

Several GOTB events will be held at male institutions in honor of Father’s Day. Those events will be held:

  •  May 31 at California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo
  •  June 6 at San Quentin State Prison
  •  June 14 at Correctional Training Facility in Soledad
  •  June 14 at Salinas Valley State Prison in Soledad

In addition, two summer GOTB events have been added this year. On July 26, GOTB will take place at Folsom State Prison and California State Prison, Sacramento.

Father’s Day visits are and several men’s institutions. Visit getonthebus.us for a complete schedule.

At FSP, Tiffany Dugan was elated to see her teenagers, Ariann and Bailey, who traveled from Redding to visit their mom. Incarcerated for nearly six years and preparing to leave in December, Tiffany said she has transformed during her incarceration, finding faith and learning about the consequences of her actions.

“They’re my lifeline,” she said, wrapping her arms around her kids. “I made a lot of mistakes, and I had to come here to figure it out, and now that I have, I’m ready to be the mom that they deserve.”

Mother after mother shared how important their children are to staying focused on rehabilitation, including Janette Broughton, whose three children came from San Jose to visit her.

“It gives me peace of mind to know that they’re OK – it helps me to do my time, as well.”

If she could give advice to a mother starting down the wrong path, Janette shared, she would tell her: “To breathe. To take time and think about what they’re doing. That they’re not the only ones that are involved, that there are other people that get hurt along the way. That what they do affects everybody.”

Carson thanked CDCR and the multitude of volunteers who make these events happen, noting that getting kids to the institutions is just the beginning.

Once there, volunteers and staff help with activities such as face painting, arts projects and games. On the bus home, each child receives a teddy bear and a letter from his or her mom, and counseling is available to those who need it.

“I grew up seeing my mom and dad every single day, and that was still special because I knew that I was loved and appreciated,” Carson shared. “And it’s the same for these kids. Every kid just wants to know that their parent is OK, that their parent loves them … anything we can do to bolster that is important.”

Erica Carmona spent the day chasing her quick-footed toddler, Dominic, who squealed with delight every time she caught him. As they played on the grass, Erica shared how hard it is to be away from him, but how the thought of being with him all the time keeps her focused on bettering herself.

Her goal when she gets out?

“To play with him like this every day.”

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