For Brain Asey, doing time at San Quentin State Prison means being far away from his son and daughter who are living in Southern California.
“It’s hard to be a parent behind bars because I’m not there when they need me,” he said. “It’s frustrating. All I can do is call or write letters.”
Asey’s son, nephew and mother took advantage of Get on the Bus (GOTB), a nonprofit organization that coordinates with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to bring children to incarcerated parents on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
This was the fourth year in a row Asey has benefited from the GOTB program.
“I missed seeing my daughter this time,” Asey said. “They keep me strong in here. So, I look forward to the visits.”
More than half of prisoners who are parents are incarcerated more than 100 miles from their children, and 10 percent live more than 500 miles away, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Maintaining good communications with children and incarcerated parents has even gotten the attention of the children’s television show, Sesame Street.
Tips for Incarcerated Parents, written and published by Sesame Street, gives advice on how to answer difficult questions a child may ask an incarcerated parent, as well as how to connect with their children during visits.
“It makes me want to support preserving
relationships between parents and kids”
The tips help prisoners deal with questions like: Where are you? When will you be home? Will I get to see you?
There are tips on helping the child feel comfortable during visits, on how to make the most of their visiting time, and how to make good-byes easier.
“Children are paying for a crime that they didn’t commit,” said Amalia Molina, executive director of Get on the Bus. “When the father goes to prison, it has a ripple effect on the child.
“It is very important to have children connect with their parents to show them that they are loved,” said Molina, who works with the Center for Restorative Justice Works in Los Angeles.
Anna Hamilton, Cathy Kalin, Michelle Tapia, Dana Dart-McLean, Courtney Cayford and Antonio Luevano are GOTB volunteers who catered to the children and their guardians during the bus ride.
“I think it’s really wonderful to see families connecting,” said Tapia, a school counselor who works with children of incarcerated parents. “I see how challenging it is for the kids,” she said. “It makes me want to support preserving relationships between parents and kids.”
Darnell “Moe” Washington’s daughter, Destiny Player, came to see him, along with his granddaughter, Khalieah Allen, his mother Bobbie Young, and sister Melinda Lockhart.
“I get to spend time with my daughter who’s on college break,” Washington said. “I only get to see them once a year and that’s because of Get on the Bus program. It’s a blessing and good program.”
“We miss his presence in the family,” his sister Melinda said. “He’s the glue that keeps us together.”
Washington’s daughter, Destiny, attends college in New Orleans and majors in psychology.
“We have a good bond,” she said. “I learn a lot about what he does in Restorative Justice.”
Washington, who has been incarcerated for 18 years, said, “The biggest difference in me from the person I was, is that today is that I am able to forgive through the practices of Restorative Justice.”
Visits from family and friends offer a means of establishing, maintaining, or enhancing social support networks, according to a study by Minnesota Department of Corrections Research Director, Grant Duwe.
The study finds that visitation can reduce recidivism by maintaining prisoners’ social ties with family members, and by helping prisoners develop new bonds with clergy or mentors. In doing so, offenders can sustain or broaden their networks of social support.