Strengthening Family Connections in California

The mission of the Strengthening Family Connections: In-Person Visitation Campaign is to pass SB 1157 in California, introduced by California State Senator Holly Mitchell, which will protect in-person visitation rights in California county jails, ensuring that video visitation cannot replace in-person visitation.

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Facts

This Bill

SB 1157 would preserve meaningful visitation rights for people in local jails by requiring facilities with video visitation to also provide in-person visitation.

This bill will help strengthen family connections between incarcerated and detained persons and their loved ones by ensuring that video visitation is only a supplement to and not a replacement of in-person visitation. Providing access to in-person visits improves behavior inside institutions, reduces recidivism, and reduces negative impacts on loved ones, especially children, of incarcerated people.

Background

When a person is incarcerated, even for a short period of time, family contact and in-person visits are crucial to maintaining family stability, reducing disciplinary infractions and violence while incarcerated, reducing recidivism, increasing the chances of obtaining employment post-release, and facilitating successful re-entry.

Since the implementation of public safety realignment, more people are serving time in county jails and for longer periods of time than ever before. Eliminating in-person visitation would have a drastic and negative impact on families, particularly children, the wellbeing of incarcerated people, and the institutional environment.

At least seven California counties (Kings, Madera, Napa, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Mateo, and Solano) have eliminated in-person visitation in at least one of their jails, meaning families there can only see their loved ones through a computer screen.

Two counties (Imperial and Placer) have severely restricted in-person visitation since adopting video visits.

Nine additional counties (Lake, Orange, Riverside, San Benito, Shasta, Stanislaus, Tehama, Tulare, and Ventura) intend to renovate or build new facilities that have no space for in-person visits.

At least six California counties (Butte, Glenn, Los Angeles, Mendocino, Plumas, and San Luis Obispo) use video visits in at least one of their jails and at least seven other counties (Alameda, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Sutter, and Yolo) plan to adopt a video visitation system.

Issue

74% of county jails across the country that implemented video visitation eliminated in-person visitation. Families with members in these institutions must pay for video calls from home or can video call their incarcerated family member from the jail lobby for free. In the latter situation, both the visitor and the incarcerated person are often in the same building, but instead of having a real visit, they can only see each other through a video screen.

Even when family members travel to these jails to “visit” their loved ones through a video screen, equipment often malfunctions, leaving them unable to see their loved ones at all. When calls from home malfunction, the money is not refunded.

Solution

Existing law specifies that the Board of State and Community Corrections create minimum standards for local correctional facilities, juvenile halls, juvenile homes, ranches, and camps.

This bill would require jails that elect to use video visitation to also provide in-person visitation.

 

Minnesota Department of Corrections, The Effects of Prison Visitation on Offender Recidivism

Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, An Overview of Research Findings in Visitation, Offender Behavior Connection

Prison Policy Initiative, Screening Out Family Time: The for-profit video visitation industry in prisons and jails

The Osborne Association/ Department of Justice National Institute of Corrections, Video Visiting in Corrections: Benefits, Limitations, and Implementation Considerations

Grassroots Leadership and Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, Video Visitation: How Private Companies Push for Visits by Video and Families Pay the Price

Vera Institute of Justice, A New Role for Technology? Implementing Video Visitation in Prison