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AB 958 - Prison Visiting Rights Bill Update

AB 958, as amended, Santiago. Prisons: visitation. An act to amend Sections 2600, 2601, and 6400 of, and to add Sections 2601.5, 6403, and 6403.5 to, the Penal Code, relating to prisons. Status: 5/18/2023 Read second time and amended. Ordered returned to second reading. LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST: (1) Under existing law, a person sentenced to imprisonment in a state prison or in a county jail for a felony offense, as specified, may, during that period of confinement, be deprived of only those rights as is reasonably related to legitimate penological interests. Existing law enumerates certain civil rights of these prisoners, including the right to purchase, receive, and read newspapers, periodicals, and books accepted for distribution by the United States Post Office. This bill would include the right to personal visits by an intimate partner or a family member, as defined, as a civil right, as specified. The bill would provide that these civil rights may not be infringed upon, infringed, except as necessary and only if narrowly tailored to further the legitimate security interests a compelling security interest of the government, and would provide that any governmental action related to these civil rights may be reviewed in court for legal error under a substantial evidence standard of review. or factual error.

(2) Existing law authorizes the Secretary of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to prescribe and amend rules and regulations for the administration of prisons and requires regulations, which are adopted by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and may impact the visitation of inmates. Existing law requires these regulations to recognize and consider the value of inmate visitation as a means of increasing safety in prisons, maintaining family and community connections, and preparing inmates for successful release and rehabilitation. Existing regulations create the framework for establishing a visitation process in prisons that is conducted in as accommodating a manner as possible, subject to the need to maintain order, the safety of persons, the security of institutions and facilities, and required prison activities and operations. This bill would additionally require those regulations pertaining to inmate visits to recognize and consider the right to personal visits as a civil right. The bill would prohibit the department from denying in-person contact visits, as specified, including as a disciplinary sanction against the incarcerated person, except as specified. The bill would require the department to inform an applicant of the specific reason for any denial of a visit. The bill would require the department to provide at least 3 days of in-person visiting per week, with a minimum of 8 visiting hours per day, plus access to video calls for at least an additional 8 hours per week.

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