DRAPER, Utah (ABC4 News) – It was a happy and fun day at the Utah State Prison Saturday as kids got to visit and play with their moms, some who haven’t seen their kids in years.
Kids day was held Saturday afternoon at the Timpanogos Facility in Draper.
Children of incarcerated mothers were able to have a special, extended visit. The event was created to help build stronger bonds between parents and children during the period of incarceration, which helps with family reunification after release.
Inmate Elicia Chavez said was nervous at first to get to see her son again.
“Should I hug him, should I ask him if it’s okay if I hug him ? Cause I haven’t seen him for so long, Chavez said. “It’s the first time I’ve seen him. Right away he gave me a hug, a kiss, we were able to fool around and play, so its a really good experience. I was nervous at first to be a mom again.”
The women and their children were able to spend several hours participating in family activities, playing games, doing art projects and sharing a meal.
Rollin Cook, Director of The Department of Corrections said they understand the connections with families are an important part of the successful transition into the community.
“These ladies, many of them are on the back end of their sentence and so they’re preparing for re-entry,” Cook said. “It’s just a great opportunity for them to get with their kids and have fun for a day.”
This is the second time the women’s prison has hosted a Kids Day to facilitate increased communication and relationship building between mothers and their children. Kids Day allows for expanded activities not typically available during a regular visit. Inmates must meet specific qualifications and maintain appropriate behavior in order to participate.
Long term studies show parental incarceration increases the risk of a child experiencing poverty, becoming incarcerated themselves, and having anti-social behaviors and trouble in school. Maintaining family connections during incarceration is vital to inmates and children, and has been shown to decrease the long-term negative effects of parental incarceration.