This is a highly anticipated bill for the year 2023, with community support that would impact thousands of families across California. It is a reform that addresses the disproportionate effects of the BIPOC individuals and their loved ones surviving under the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC).
Assembly Bill 958 is essentially to strengthen visiting opportunities and connections between incarcerated people and their families and children in California's state prisons to support their emotional health, improve in-custody conduct, and reduce recidivism, according to the Felony Murder Elimination Project.
Introduced by Democratic Assemblyman Miguel Santiago from District 54 of Los Angeles, the bill would require CDCR (Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) to provide at least 3 days of in-person visiting per week, with a minimum of 7 visiting hours per week. Less than 30 percent of incarcerated people of receive visits in California prison, not due to the negligence of family members that are marketed by opposing groups. CDCR has barriers that impact the accessibility of visits for loved ones imprisoned.
CDCR currently denies visitation to:
- Family members with past convictions, even when those convictions are decades old.
- Applicants who inadvertently forget to list a law enforcement contact, and these "contacts" can include being detained with without an arrest or conviction.
- Incarcerated persons with rule violations that have absolutely nothing to do with a violation of visiting rules.
Nearly half of prisoners on both state and federal levels in the United States have children and/or dependents, and 1 in 2 Americans know someone (related and non-related) that is in jail. With children that are most impacted and burdened by the justice system, maintaining relationships with their parents or guardians who are behind bars can be a valuable contribution in their lives despite the extremely difficult position of separation. This bill would make visitation a civil right, not a privilege. The most important people in our lives that are not with us physically and are serving time, would also have many benefits from this bill including more agency in thriving when reentering and getting the consistent support that they need. Criminal justice is not as distanced and impossible to resolve as critics of reformed public safety might think.
It will be going into consideration from the Senate Appropriations on August 14th next month.
Organizations who sponsor the bill include A New Way of Life, All of Us or None, Alliance for Boys and Men of Color, Anti-Recidivism Coalition, California Families Against Solitary Confinement, California's Impacted Families Project, Community Works, Communities United for Restorative Youth, Justice LA, Drop LWOP, East Bay Family Defenders, Felony Murder Elimination Project, Families United to End LWOP, Homies Unidos, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, Children Mary Mac Transitional Homes, Pillars of the Community Place4Grace, RTime Co., Sister Warriors, Starting Over, Inc. Young Women's Freedom Center, The Coalition for Family Unity, and Youth Leadership Institute.