Saving a Prison Program for Mothers and Kids

Please do not shut down this resource

Lanetta Garner | 12/23/2014, 4:30 p.m.
The Family Preservation Program, located in Oregon's Coffee Creek Women's Correctional Facility, is scheduled to be shut down at the ...
Coffee Creek Correctional Facility

The Family Preservation Program, located in Oregon's Coffee Creek Women's Correctional Facility, is scheduled to be shut down at the end of the year. The program is desperately needed to help women and their children. The prison claims there are other programs, but if you look closely, you will find the other programs serve very few women or children and most of them are annual events rather than on-going programs. Not a single woman who has been in this program has reoffended upon her release.

Please do not shut down this program.

Four years ago I had a baby when I was is in prison. I'd barely had time to hold my little girl in my arms before they took her from me. For three years, I didn't get to see her. I missed her first smile, her first step, her first three birthdays. I never got to hold her little hand in mind, never got a chance to dry her tears. I could only hope and pray that she was loved, that she was cared for, that if she had bad dreams at night, that somebody would be there to comfort her.

Finally, I got into a program at Coffee Creek prison that helps families. The program, called The Family Preservation Program, has been in operation for 4.5 years and served more than 100 women and children in a number of ways. Mothers learn parenting skills, something many of us never had a chance to learn because our own parents were unable to care for us or had problems of their own that were so enormous they didn't have anything left for us.

The program made all the arrangement so our kids could visit us twice a month. Unless you've been separated from your children, you can't really imagine how much that means. Not just to us, but also to our kids. They worry about us when we're in prison. They're afraid we'll be hurt or that we don't have enough to eat or that we have to sleep on cement floors. With all these worries, kids are vulnerable to emotional problems. They might not do well at school. But when they get to see us every other week, and they can see that we're doing okay, their worries are lifted.

The time we spent with them is precious not just because of the emotional connection, but because during this time, we have activities together that build strong bonds.

In the life of the program, not a single woman who has been released from prison has reoffended. And now the program is going to be shut down because of funding issues.

I'm out of prison now. I have a job. I'm in transitional housing now, but will soon have my own place and my daughter and I will live together at last.

The issues of children of incarcerated parents are well documented and now 1 out of 8 children in the United States has a parent in prison. The problem is so huge that Sesame Street now has a character on it whose parent is in prison. This program is helping these children stay connected to their moms. It is helping moms become good mothers, which will pay off for the mother, the child, and the community when she is released from prison.

This program helped me immeasurably and it will continue to help other women who have made serious mistakes and ended up in prison. It has given many families a second chance. It has helped children know they are loved and kept them connected with their mothers.

Please help me keep this program going by signing my petition to ask the people who made the decision to close it, to keep it open.

Lanettta Garner is from Portland. You can sign her petition by visiting the website petitions.moveon.org/sign/keep-a-prison-program.