'An opportunity to bond:' Camp Reunite gives incarcerated mothers a chance to connect with their children
FOND DU LAC -- Tall gates and wired fences surround the mile-long perimeter around Taycheedah Correctional Institution, but on Sunday, Dec. 29, officials at the maximum-security prison allowed the inmates inside to connect with their loved ones on the outside, through Camp Reunite.
For KeAna Cousin, the camp is her chance to be a mom.
"When I was out in the real world, there was so much going that I couldn't take time to interact with them personally," she said.
Cousin, an inmate at Taycheedah Correctional, said visits trough Camp Reunite let her connect with her kids.
The camp is put on through a partnership between the Wisconsin Department of Corrections and nonprofit Hometown Heroes.
The prison's warden said the program offers a meaningful change in comparison to an average visit.
"An average visit is typically kind of a sterile room," said Sarah Cooper, warden. "We have a lot of tables set up. The ladies and their families sit across from each other at the table. Everyone has to keep their hands above the tables, and there's not a lot of touching or affection that is shown in the regular visiting room."
Warden Cooper said corrections officials work to balance security with rehabilitation.
"Our job is not to punish the people that are living here," said Cooper. "What we strive to do here is to create an environment that is conducive to personal growth, that is conducive to learning, that provides a lot of different opportunities for people to learn new ways of handling themselves."
So while Cousin won't forget her impact on society, she said she works every day to be better for the day she is released.
"I'm here because I sold drugs, but while I'm here, I'm using this as an opportunity to bond with my kids, to bond with other mothers, and to just see what I can do differently," she said.