Family Visiting Day 2007

CCWP held its third annual Family Visiting Day event in February, providing transportation from Oakland and Los Angeles to Central California Women’s Facility and Valley State Prison for Women. The response this year was bigger than any previous year (we received information for over 800 visitors while we had the capacity for only 170) showing the enormous desire of prisoners in Chowchilla and their loved ones to visit one another. Many loved ones of prisoners need assistance in getting to the prisons, as the cost and distance of the trip is often too much, especially considering the disproportionate number of people from poor communities and communities of color being locked up.

The Archdiocese Catholic Center in downtown LA and Friends Outside graciously provided use of their facilities. Whole Foods, Rainbow Grocery Cooperative, Primo?s coffee, Veritable Vegetables, Noah?s Bagels, Trader Joe?s, and Safeway donated snacks and drinks for the long drive to the prisons. We provided three photo ducats to each prisoner’s visitors, and took everyone out to dinner after the visit so we could all relax, eat, and socialize with other Family Visiting Day participants and CCWP volunteers.
While the days were very long and tiring for everyone involved, the joy of being able to see and touch a loved one inside meant so much to all who participated. Our connections to family members and loved ones of the people inside were strengthened and we hope to stay in touch and work collectively with them to challenge the unjust conditions of confinement that women, transgender, and gender variant prisoners in women’s institutions face as well as the racist, classist, and sexist society that puts them there.
Some comments Family Visiting Day participants made about what the event meant to them:
It’s something very important because I have no other way of coming to visit my daughter.
A whole lot of love happiness and communication.
It meant getting together with other people that understand what you?re going through because they are in the same situation.
It?s always important to see our family member and to participate in the cause to better things for the inmates and their families.
A way to meet other families going through the same thing.
It mean a lot to us because without this program we wouldn’t be able to see her.

In addition to these heartfelt comments, in the weeks following the event we received numerous letters from the prisoners who were able to get a visit, expressing their gratitude and joy. The people who wrote to us from inside shared:
A lot of us women hadn’t seen our families. If it wasn’t for your great efforts of putting this visit together who knows if we would ever see them again. Thank you so much.
I just wanted to write a personal thank you for caring enough to bring my dear mom to see me. I hadn’t seen her in 7 years, then you wonderful people made it possible.
I’m still so jazzed…very happy.
This visit changed the remaining of my time left here at Chowchilla thanks to you. You made it possible for my kids and my precious mother to come visit me and for this I will forever be greatful to all of you. My older son is 17 years old and he was doing bad in school but after that visit he’s getting A’s?my other boy is 14 years old and you also made his day. His birthday is in February so he got to see his mom. Thank you so much.
I will never forget this. It has made me a better person to know someone cares.

This event reminds us every year how meaningful it is for people in prisons to see their children, families, and loved ones outside and break down the barriers and isolation that the system is set up to create. CCWP is committed to doing whatever we can to keep these connections strong.