San Francisco, CA – Within the metro of the San Francisco Bay Area lies Marin County and within Marin County is the city of San Quentin. This is where the San Quentin State Prison is located, the oldest prison in the state of California.
This prison has housed the most evil and ruthless of criminals and it is also the last stop for the condemned. San Quentin State Prison is where death row inmates destined for the gas chamber were required to be detained; but they don’t kill convicts by gas anymore; nowadays it is by lethal injection. In short, San Quentin is an abattoir for those that have received the death penalty.
But Father’s Day 2012, San Quentin State Prison shows a more human side to its facility by allowing the children of inmates to spend the day with their fathers.
The Center for Restorative Justice Works runs the program “Get on the Bus.” The program takes California children and let them visit their dads in prison. The travel distance for most is great, based on a study, 60% of the inmates at the State Prison are at least 100 miles away from their children.
As the children arrive, some are accompanied by their mothers while others are accompanied by relatives or caregivers are then led to a reception area where their fathers are eagerly awaiting to spend time with them. It is usually an emotional moment.
The Get on the Bus programs annually hosts programs like these. Their goal is to help the child emotionally adjust to the situation and reality of not having their fathers who will guide them as they grow up. This program also aims that these children will learn the hardships of jail and will avoid the same pitfalls that their parents fell into so that they can avoid a life of crime and incarceration. The program is non-profit and greatly relies on donations.
Aside from the benefits that the children are getting from the program, their fathers also have benefitted from it. Based on a report, it shows that inmates who got to spend time with their kids , call it a supervised visitation of sorts, increased their chances of reforming themselves and not sliding back to a life of crime that will land them back in jail. Hardened criminals these men may have been but they are still human on the inside who craves the love of a family. They may not have custody of their children nor able to provide child support but it does not mean they do not want to be in the lives of their kids.
It is good that there are programs like these. It unites families and children that have been separated because of the justice system, family law, and crime. Children are always the casualty. Many are victims of domestic violence, child abuse, casualties of divorce; they emotionally suffer a great deal. But thanks to programs like Get on the Bus, these kids and their parents are given HOPE that there is something better that is waiting for them in the future.
The Father’s Day visitation has drawn to a close in San Quentin State Prison and the children wave their final goodbyes to their fathers. The sun starts to go down and all that is left are poignant memories of the encounter. Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads.