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Bringing the holidays into the jails

Over the past few weeks, different entities have partnered to bring the holiday spirit into the San Francisco County Jails. Through varying individual projects, the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department (SFSD) in collaboration with the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJCJ) have worked together to bring live music to the inmates, and gave children the opportunity to open gifts with their incarcerated fathers. These activities help inmates stay connected with their families and community, providing a stronger foundation for a successful reentry into the community when the inmates are released.

The Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir gathered at the Children’s Waiting Room prior to their performance for the inmates at the SF County Jail.

The Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir gathered at the Children’s Waiting Room prior to their performance for the inmates at the SF County Jail.

Under Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi’s leadership, the SFSD personnel and CJCJ’s Children’s Waiting Rooms’ staff work with Bread and Roses to give inmates a chance to share in the joy of music. Bread and Roses is a group that has been committed to bringing live performances to isolated audiences for 40 years. One Monday evening in December, Bread and Roses, supported by the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir volunteers, presented a concert in the jail at the Hall of Justice. Over 40 inmates enjoyed light snacks provided by CJCJ’s Children’s Waiting Rooms, while enjoying thrilling holiday performances. Through the particular support of Sheriff personnel Captain Adams, Lieutenant Steppe, Sergeant Kester, and Director of Religious Programs Yolanda Robinson and other SFSD personnel, the inmates were able to partake in a safe and uplifting show that changed the atmosphere in the jail for those few hours.

More recently over the past two weeks, the SFSD and CJCJ showed families the value we place on family relations and its importance in ensuring families are not fractured by incarceration. SFSD personnel Captain Adams and Sergeant Johnson supported CJCJ’s Children’s Waiting Rooms Manager Maire Larkin in facilitating a unique experience for some of the children of incarcerated fathers in San Francisco. Under the leadership of the Sheriff, Captain Adams and Director of Programs Ali Riker work with Community Works and CJCJ to provide visitation services for children and their incarcerated fathers in a safe and child-friendly environment. Through a distinctive visiting program developed particularly for children of incarcerated parents, CJCJ facilitates hour-long individual child and family visits for inmates in the County Jail at the Hall of Justice. Staff encourage the inmates to interact with their children through a positive and honest approach, advancing healthy development and allowing for the expansion or initiation of a strong relationship between the father and the child, despite the circumstances of incarceration.

CJCJ loads up on gifts from the Family Giving Tree for the children of CJCJ’s programs.

CJCJ loads up on gifts from the Family Giving Tree for the children of CJCJ’s programs.

The child and family visits this season included the fathers giving their children special holiday presents. CJCJ received generous gifts specifically for these children through an ongoing partnership with the Family Giving Tree. Children were surprised to learn they were receiving a gift from their fathers during this special holiday visit. Sergeant Johnson compassionately wrapped the gifts giving the children the excitement that comes with ripping off wrapping paper, and staff took pictures commemorating this memorable moment between the father and his child.

Through all of the amazing partnerships CJCJ and SFSD continue to develop, with a little extra effort and a great deal of care and kindness, many individuals within the county jail were able to enjoy the holiday season this past year. Every day, but especially during the holidays, it is important to remember these men will be returning to their community. Family engagement like the connection between a father and his children plays a vital role in cultivating a safe and healthy return to the community, for the father, his family, and the community at large.

Keywords: children of incarcerated parents, Children's Waiting Rooms, Dinky Manek Enty, incarceration, youth

Posted in Blog, Model Local Practices

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