It's not supposed to be like this. Behind barbed wire and a watchful eye from a prison guards, mothers wait in earnest for their chidren to come through the gate.
It's like this once a year at the Women's Prison in Corona. A non-profit group called "Get on the Bus" hopes interaction between imprisoned parents and their children on the outside can lessen the likelihood those kids will follow in their parents' bad footsteps. Organizers say it could keep parents from becoming repeat offenders, too.
"It's been hell being in prison," says Patricia Collins. The mother of 5 has been in prison for 3 years so far, although she declined to say why. "I've never been away this long from my kids, never."
For one day, for hundreds of kids from up and down the Golden State, this is considered a litte bit of normacy, as normal as it can get.
Rosalinda Martinez began to cry as she saw her 13- and 7-year-od sons approaching the guard gate, "I just couldn't stop crying cause they're so beautiful and they've changed so much since I've seen them."
Martinez has been at the women's prison for nearly three years, convicted of grand theft auto. Looking at her two boys, she says when she gets out, she'll never come back. "I have so much to lose."
"Get on the Bus" is a program designed by the state's Center for Restorative Justice. Donations keep the buses moving so kids can visit for Mother's Day at women's prisons around the state and for Father's Day for the men's detention centers.
"It almost feels like they've forgotten they're incarcerated for a moment," says Prison Guard Lt. Felix Figueroa. "If you continue the family bond, I think that lessens the likeliness that the inmate will come back to prison.
For more information: www.GetontheBus.us