Mothers and Infants Together – the way it should be

from Donna Villanueva
[The Fire Inside asked Donna Villanueva, a case manager with the Community Prisoner Mother Infant Program (CPMP) which is run by the Friends Outside group in Salinas, to ask mothers to write about their experinces with the program. None of us knew then what we have since learned – that the CDC was planning to close the Salinas site down on June 30th because the program is not “cost effective”. After reading the letters from these women it would seem that the real problem is that it is too effective in empowering women to suit the CDC.]
I am so pleased to be able to submit these letters from the women of the Mother Infant Program in Salinas. As you know, we will be closing our doors June 30th which has made it very difficult emotionally for both the women and staff.
This was my first opportunity to work with inmate mothers. In my five years of working in the recovery field, I have to say it has been the most rewarding. It has been a joy to see the light return to their eyes, their hope for the future and the knowledge they can empower themselves as women and mothers. I am confident that the women who leave our facility leave with the tools they need to have a full and rewarding life. I hope that in the future I again have the opportunity to work with this very special population of women.
Below are excerpts from the women’s letters.
What CPMP has meant to me is that I get to start a new life with my first child whose life started without me being able to be there. The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do was to have him taken from me just 3 days after he was born. At 2 months I was reunited with him here at CPMP and it has been the most fulfilling experience of my life. I’ve been here close to 8 months now and have been learning things about myself and my drug addiction. I’m also learning parenting skills to help me be a good parent to this wonderful gift from God that I’ve been given who is my son. This is not my first time in treatment, but I’ve learned more here than at any of the retail institutions I’ve been through. I feel like this place has prepared me to go out into the world and make it without the use of drugs or criminal behavior. If I were to have one wish it would be that every woman who’s given this opportunity gets as much out of it as I have. Thank you Friends Outside. I love each and everyone of you who has made this all possible for me and my son Noah.
-Tracy Jane Steintrager
“From Under A Rock” (excerpt)
by Tori Alvarado
At this program we learn how to change old behaviors
All the women that work here are really like saviors.
It’s been almost 2 years now, I feel that I’m ready,
I just hope when I get there, I can keep my life steady.
It’s easy to forget all the fear that I felt,
All the sad lonely nights, locked in a cell,
A few lines and a beer, all I learned can be lost
I’m not willing to lose that, at any cost!
Coming to CPMP has given me a second chance at being a good mother, wife, and sister. I was able to be reunited with my youngest child who was 11 months old when I was incarcerated. I have also been able to open up communication with my 2 other children and I have been very fortunate to have a supportive husband…I can go back to where I came from and live a better life with the tools I acquired at CPMP.
-Mellissa