On Saturday, around 125 children from all over California will arrive by bus at the Federal Correctional Institute in Dublin. For a few hours the children will be reunited with their mothers who are inmates in the low security prison at Camps Park.
The reunion is organized by Get on the Bus, a network of 1,000 volunteers and 250 faith groups dedicated to arranging visits between incarcerated mothers and their children.
Patch talked to Hilary Carson, the Program Director for Get on the Bus, about her organization and Saturday’s visit in Dublin. Before the prison visit, families will have a holiday breakfast at St Joan of Arc Catholic Parish in San Ramon and St. Raymond Catholic Church in Dublin.
How long has it been going and what are the origins? Sister Suzanne [ a Catholic nun, belonging to the Congregation of St. Joseph] founded the program 14 years ago after a meeting with women incarcerated at the prison in Chowchilla. Their only request was to be able to see their children. We are based in Los Angeles, we are the only agency that does what we do. Our program started 12 years ago with one bus and 17 kids. Last year, more than 1,000 children all across California went to see their parents at 11 different prisons.
How many children will be coming this weekend and where are they from? We have 126 who are planning to attend the event on Saturday from San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Diego, and Bakersfield.
How many mothers will be getting visits at the prison this weekend? 45
How long are the visits? Anywhere from 3-5 hours depending on how quickly the prison can process the families inside.
And are the kids allowed to have physical contact with their mom during the visit? Absolutely this is a huge part of the program. We encourage hugging and piggyback rides!
What is the age range of the kids participating? We don’t have a strict age limit. Our focus is on school aged children and the majority of our participants are eight to 10, but if older children have been estranged or cant afford the trip we provide them and their children to be a part of the program as well.
How many prisons does this program cover? Currently we are in 11 of the 33 state prisons across the state and this will be the first foray into the federal system.
How is your program funded? Individuals, religious organizations, grants, and foundations.
Connect with Get on the Bus on Facebook.
Watch this video of a Mother's Day reunion in 2011.