Sunday, May 13, 2007

A sort of homecoming

Mothers Day -- a difficult time for incarcerated women. Charles McCarthy of the Fresno Bee reports on the program that brings children and their mothers together at California prisons. Tammy Price is serving her time at Valley State Prison for Women (one of two women's prisons in Chowchilla) and her child was one of more than 400 who made the trip this time:

Price said Friday was just the second time in nine years that she has seen her son, Preston Price, 17. And she has three years remaining on her prison sentence.

"It's a blessing from God to be able to see him," said Price, 43.

The buses were part of a program -- called Get On the Bus -- that this year brought 650 youngsters aboard 36 buses to visit their moms behind the barbed wire in Valley State, the Central California Women's Facility and three other facilities in Southern California.

At Valley State, it was a long-awaited morning for 140 inmates as their children, many accompanied by grandparents, filed into the prison's visiting center.

Many of the visitors wore souvenir purple T-shirts, which also helped the prison staff identify them in the crowded center and on the lawn outside.

The Mother's Day bus program was founded by Sister Suzanne Jabro of the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles. She also founded a smaller Father's Day visitation last year. Both programs are a collaboration with the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and both continue to grow.

When the first Mother's Day visitation bus left Southern California in 2000, seven children were aboard to visit their mothers behind prison walls. Last year, buses took 595 children -- plus sponsors -- from all over California.

Participants receive teddy bears, T-shirts and travel bags. Volunteers help make it work.
This program has recieved quite a bit of praise over recent years, and an additional service, Chowchilla Family Express, now makes monthly runs from a number of cities. It is operated by the Get on the Bus organization, and funded by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

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