Six families participate in first week-long program

By Ashley Caldwell, Student Assistant | OPEC

In an effort to reduce recidivism rates and improve inmate behavior, Calipatria State Prison (CAL) has introduced a day camp that allows well-behaved inmates to reunite with their children.

Camp Grace, sponsored by Place4Grace, brings in children of inmates to spend each day at the facility for a week.  The week of March 25, CAL was the first prison in California to implement such a program.

Public Relations Officer Jorge Santana said applications were sent out to inmates.  To be eligible applicants must have a child ages 8 to 14; must be disciplinary free for at least one year; must participate in enhanced visiting preparation workshops, including topics such as communication, parenting, positive discipline, camp confidentiality, and ethics.  The participants also must be willing to interact with other fathers participating in the camp and must be able to visit with minors.  Applications were reviewed by CAL staff.

Six families participated in Camp Grace.  Children stayed in a local hotel and were processed as inmate visitors.  In the visiting room, children were reunited with their inmate fathers and participated in arts, crafts, sports, and skits.  Meals and supplies were donated by local restaurants and organizations. 
 
“I never believed I would ever see anything like this in prison,” an inmate father said through tears on the last day of the camp.  “I am so grateful.”

In 2004, 59 percent of parents in a state correctional facility reported never having had a personal visit from their children, which often creates challenges for children and families. 

Maintaining contact with an incarcerated parent improves a child’s emotional response to the incarceration and supports parent-child attachment (www.fcnetwork.org).  It also reduces the rate of recidivism.  With more than 55 percent of CAL’s Level IV population serving life sentences, some staff members were skeptical of the program, but many of those attitudes changed as they watched participants during the week.