The kids’ eyes lit up when Santa came into the room, but they had another reason to be happy. They got to hug their moms, something they can’t do on the usual jail visit.
One of those moms was 24 year old Addie Walker. She has three children, and went to jail on a drug charge when her youngest was just two months old.
“It was very hard. But you know it’s something I had to do, so I can get my life together and be home with her in the future.”
Walker is one of the low-risk inmates in Harris County’s Reentry Services program. It’s goal is help offenders get their lives together, so they won’t return to jail. As part of the program inmates were allowed to spend time with their children at a party sponsored by the group Navidad en el Barrio. As the kids ripped open their presents, some moms wiped away tears.
“We really want to show them the importance of family.”
Jail Reentry Services Director Tracy Dudley:
“They’re going to get a chance to reflect on, wow, this was great, but I missed the opportunity to be home with my family for Christmas. And that’s what we want for them to know is that, you’re so worth it. Your family’s worth it. And we as a community, we need these women.”
A total of 15 women were allowed to attend the party, where they were welcomed by Sheriff Adrian Garcia.
“The whole idea is to get them to think about how much better it would be to celebrate Christmas at home, not wearing a uniform of the Harris County Jail. It’s our effort to try to touch the consciousness, get them to live a healthier, more productive life, remember that their kids are watching them.”
And Garcia says he wants the women to make county’s reentry program a success.
“I’ve spoken to them, and I’ve told them that the best thing they can do to help this particular program is to not come back to the county jail. Live a better life. Remember that your kids need you. Remember that it’s much easier to celebrate Christmas at home than to celebrate it here. And so the best Christmas gift they can give me is not to come back.”
The kids attending the party ranged in age from two months to sixteen years.