Central California Women's Facility taking part in first ever mother-children camp

CHOWCHILLA, Calif. (KFSN) -- It is warm embraces all around as children and mothers reunite at the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla.

"It means everything right now," said inmate Aja-Ne Soto

This is day three of Camp Suzanne, the first prison program of its kind in the entire state.

"Sometimes they do not have the means to come over and visit on a regular basis, so this week-long process, is so beneficial to them," said Sergeant Concepcion Segoviano.

For five days children, ages eight to 13 will visit the prison and get to better know their mothers through different activities like arts and crafts. The time spent here will strengthen their relationships with their moms.

"It's awesome. You never see her every day," said camp participant Ava Covarubbios.

"We get to learn more things about our mom," said Victor Covarubbios.

Today they are fleecing blankets and watching a movie.

10-year-old Ava her 9-year-old brother Victor are working hand-in-hand with their mom Aja-Ne Soto.

"This program really brought me closer to seeing their personalities, seeing them on an everyday basis, it helped me get close to them and realize they are growing really fast," said Soto.

Apart from bringing families closer, Program coordinator with the Center of Restorative Justice Works, Vanessa Sanchez said the camp helps mothers re-assimilate into their homes after they are released.

"When mother and children are able to participate in these programs the recidivism rates go down," said Sanchez.

During the week-long camp, children stay at the Merced College dorms, exposing them to campus life and taking part in counseling sessions.

"The program helps them not only reunite with their mother, but also realize that they are not alone," she said. "There are many, many families who are like them and are suffering in silence."

On the last day of camp, they will celebrate by throwing a birthday party for all the children. The women's facility says they hope to continue the program for years to come.
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