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Inmates gather with kids at Mother's Day event

May 6, 2004

WAILUKU - Inmates at the Maui Community Correctional Center celebrated Mother's Day earlier than scheduled as they joined their children for a special time outside jail walls Wednesday.

The second "Kid's Day" event organized by MCCC and the Maui Economic Opportunity Inc.'s Head Start and Free to Grow project brought together 19 incarcerated moms and their 34 children at the MEO classroom in Wailuku.

"This is real special to me," said Diana Carlton, who will leave MCCC on June 9. All eight months of her newborn daughter's life have been spent away from mom, except for a few visits on weekends and at events like "Kid's Day."

At 4 months old, Carlton's daughter Chasity was practically inconsolable when she visited her mom at the first "Kid's Day" event a few days before Christmas at the Kahului Community Center. On Wednesday, the baby rested peacefully in her mother's arms. 
"I'm really thankful for this," Carlton said.

MEO Executive Director Gladys Baisa told the women that the "Kid's Day" events have long been in the works.  And, "we're never going to let it stop," Baisa said to applause from the audience.

MCCC Warden Alan Nouchi agreed with Baisa.  "It's going to continue," he said.
Nouchi said he believes in strengthening family bonds and events such as these help to boost inmates' morale.   "They appreciate what's happening, and it shows," she said.

Women smiled, laughed and cried with their children. Some danced hula for the children, and others sang and gestured to the tune of "He's Got the Whole World."

Lorna Blackburn cried as she visited with her two daughters, 12-year-old Cheyenne Ryan, and 9-year-old Savannah Dwyer.  "I can never repay them for being able to spend time with my children," Blackburn said as she struggled to talk through tears. Sentenced to a six-month term for theft and forgery, Blackburn said she has plans to find a job and build a treehouse with her girls once she leaves jail this summer.

said she's been able to maintain ties with her daughters by telephoning them and seeing them on regular visits at MCCC. "No facility can take that bond away," she said.  Both Savannah and Cheyenne expressed joy for visiting their mom somewhere other than jail.  "It's fun," Savannah said. "It's nice," Cheyenne added.

Wednesday's event gave Kathleen Waikiki time to pause and reflect on time away from her two daughters, 10-year-old Alia and 5-year-old Cylynn. Waikiki has spent 11 months in jail, choosing not to get visits from her daughters at the facility. "You never realize what you have until you lose it," Waikiki said as she and Cylynn colored paper flowers together. "I've learned a very good lesson, and I want to do good now and stay positive."

The MEO staff prepared activities for mothers and children, including an art project with beads and creation of a plastic vase with a vibrant green plant.

At the close of the two-hour visit, the children walked away with the plants, vases and the book "A is for Aloha," while the moms each carried away a rose, a lauhala rose and a handmade card from their children.

MEO Head Start Director Lyn McNeff said the purpose of "Kid's Day" is to give the children a chance to spend quality time with their inmate moms.  "We still recognize they're mothers, and the children deserve to recognize their moms," McNeff said.  "It's all about the children," Baisa explained. "We need to focus on the children and help them through all the pain and suffering they're going through."

(Written by Claudine San Nicolas, May 6, 2004 and reprinted with permission of the Maui News,


copyright 2008 Free To Grow
Free To Grow is a national program supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation with direction and technical assistance provided by the Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University.