Nearly 50 male inmates from the Pitchess Detention Center South Facility in Castaic were united with their children Friday afternoon in a family oriented, carnival style atmosphere that included food, music and games for the kids. The Returning Hearts Celebration was created as a way to bring incarcerated fathers closer to their children and to help break the cycle of crime and separation from families. This was the fifth year the annual event was held at the jail.
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Inmates selected to take part in the celebration had previously chosen to enroll in the 12-week Malachi Dads Spiritual Growth Program that teaches participants the positive fundamentals of fatherhood. This program is offered to inmates as part of the Maximizing Education Reaching Individual Transformation (MERIT) Program, which is administered by the Department’s Education Based Incarceration Bureau. The MERIT Program promotes personal growth, accountability and decision making.
The one-day festival was once again organized and sponsored by the Grace Baptist Church in Santa Clarita. They paid for all expenses and provided the nearly 200 volunteers necessary to serve food, staff games and provide musical entertainment. The festivities were held on an open compound that is isolated from other inmates.
Since the celebration is devoted to uniting children with their dads, no other family members were in attendance. The children were chaperoned throughout the day by volunteers from the Awana Lifeline Ministries. Numerous deputies and jail staff were also present.
“The Returning Hearts” program is a great way for the fathers to reconnect with their children. We are extremely proud to be a small part of this outstanding effort,” said EBI Captain Mike Bornman.
Visits that include personal contact between parents and children are very unusual in the county jail system and only take place under controlled conditions such as this special event.
The Department’s Religious and Volunteer Services Unit, which is overseen by EBI, coordinates all religious activity within the county jails and ensures that inmates have access to ministers, spiritual advisors and moral rehabilitation programs of their choice.
The Education Based Incarceration Bureau is responsible for managing the 67 inmate educational and vocational programs within the seven Los Angeles County jails. There are approximately 18,000 inmates in the County jail system. Within that population, there are currently more than 7,000 inmates participating in the diverse programs.
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