Santa Claus Comes to Century Regional Detention Facility: Bringing the Holiday Spirit to An Unlikely Place


Gordon Philanthropies, Inc. in collaboration with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department helped incarcerated mothers record audiobooks for their children.


This audio recording project is part of an ongoing collaboration between Gordon Philanthropies and the LA County Sheriff’s Department and the recordings offer an innovative approach to creating opportunities for meaningful parent-child bonding even while incarcerated. The Sybil Brand Children’s Library, also donated by Gordon Philanthropies’ forms part of the organization’s commitment to promoting children’s well-being and learning.

Incarcerated mothers and grandmothers were allowed to record their loving voices reading a book into an audio recorder that would later be gifted to their children. In addition, Santa and Mrs. Claus made a surprise guest visit, bringing gifts and joy to the children of the incarcerated women.

Lynwood Mayor Oscar Flores attended and supported the women with their recordings. Mayor Oscar Flores said, “This is such an important project. Visitation can be difficult for children due to distance and other barriers to transportation. Being able to hear their mother’s voice reading them their favorite book can make all the difference as they await their next visit or phone call.”

Children are the “hidden victims” of incarceration. They are confronted with an array of economic, social, and psychological challenges, often with little personal or societal support. Research suggests that “the strength or weakness of the parent-child bond” combined with the quality of their family social support system can help children overcome the challenges and stigmas of having an incarcerated parent.

“Reading to a child is one of the most meaningful activities a parent can do with their children. It instills a sense of imagination and wonder, and it tells the child that their parent is invested in their interests and adventures. That bond is a foundation for familial love and lifelong learning,” said Gordon Philanthropies Founder Dan Gordon.

The audiobook recordings are especially important in winter when the extended break from school combined with the pressures of the holiday places additional social and psychological strain on the children of incarcerated parents.

An estimated 1.25 million minor children have an incarcerated parent, with an estimated 856,000 children in California alone. These audiobooks, combined with phone calls and in-person visitation, can help children maintain that sense of parental love they so rightfully deserve. Visiting children were presented with the recordings of their mothers reading to them, along with a surprise visit from Santa who brought additional gifts.

Whenever my children are feeling down, I hope that they will be able to go back and replay the recording and know they are thought of and loved no matter how far or long I might be gone,” said one incarcerated mother at CRDF.

“They all love to read and the joy this gift will bring is priceless. Nothing in the world is more pure than a child’s joy,” shared another incarcerated mother at CRDF.

Head of the LA County Sheriff Robert Luna said, “We recognize the unique challenges faced by many incarcerated people at CRDF, who may be mothers themselves. Supportive programs like these can foster and break the cycle of incarceration.”

These audiobooks and the visit from Santa are part of Gordon Philanthropies’ ongoing commitment to promoting children’s well-being and learning. After the recordings and gifts from Santa were distributed, Gordon Philanthropies’ Founder Dan Gordon and LA County Sheriff Robert Luna held a press conference to celebrate the grand opening of the New Sybil Brand Children’s Library alongside Sheriff Robert Luna, Judge Craig Mitchell, and other special guests.

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