The CDCR and the Center for Restorative Justice Works (CRJW) began bringing together hundreds of children to visit their incarcerated fathers during the Annual Get On The Bus event.

Families visiting CMC in 2009.

Thirty-three buses filled with more than 700 children and their caregivers will travel from major cities across California to one of four male institutions with five separate Father’s Day events:

• California Men’s Colony (CMC), San Luis Obispo – June 5 and 12

• Correctional Training Facility (CTF), Soledad – June 19

• Salinas Valley State Prison (SVSP), Soledad – June 19

• California State Prison, Solano (CSP-Solano) – June 19

“Get On The Bus brings incarcerated fathers and their children together for a memorable visit,” said CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate. “A strong bond between a father and his family helps that inmate succeed upon release and shows children how important they are in their parent’s life.”

Approximately 200,000 children in California have an incarcerated parent and live with relatives or in foster care, according to CDCR.

“Seldom do people ask, ‘What about the children?’” said Get On The Bus Executive Director, Sister Suzanne Jabro. “These are the hidden victims of crime and punishment.”

For the first time, youth members of Project WHAT!, a program that raises awareness about the effects of parental incarceration on children, are sponsoring a bus so that other children will have the opportunity to visit their parents. Project WHAT!, a program of the Berkeley-based nonprofit, Community Works, is comprised of youth ages 15-20, all of whom have or have had a parent in prison or jail.

In addition, Get On The Bus has launched two pilot projects to bring children for the first time to California State Prison, Solano and Salinas Valley State Prison.

Get On The Bus provides children and their caregivers with travel bags for the children, comfort care bags for the caregivers, a photograph of each child with his or her father, and meals for the day. The program is funded by donations from churches, schools, family foundations, grants and other organizations.

“A child needs to see and know their father is safe and to know they are loved,” added Sister Suzanne.

Get On The Bus reunited children with their mothers on May 7, 2010 for Mother’s Day at three California women’s institutions. To watch a video of the program, click here: