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New Bill Will Require State to House Incarcerated Parents Close to Their Children

AB 1226 requires an incarcerated parent or legal guardian of a minor child be placed in a correctional facility that's closest to their child's home

For immediate release:
  • Nate Allbee
  • (415) 756-0561

Sacramento –  Today Assemblymember Matt Haney (D-San Francisco) announced the Keep Families Close Act that requires the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to respect the rights of minor children to remain in contact with their incarcerated parents. AB 1226 requires CDCR to place an incarcerated parent, legal guardian, or caregiver of a minor child in the correctional facility closest to that child’s home. The bill also allows already incarcerated parents to request a transfer to a prison close to their child’s home. 

Parents and caregivers play a critical role in the development of their children. Data shows that up until the age of 18, frequent contact between the child and their parent is crucial for the child’s behavioral and emotional development. Currently, about 195,000 children have incarcerated parents in California state prisons. Due to sudden separation from their caregiver, children with incarcerated parents experience unique issues such as antisocial behavior and drug abuse. However, children who are able to maintain contact with their parents experience less severe harmful impacts.

“We know that having a relationship with parents is crucial for a child’s behavioral and emotional development and being able to see them on a regular basis--even just during visits--can make a huge difference in a young child's life,” said Haney. 

In a large state like California, there are thousands of incarcerated parents who are placed more than 500 miles from their children. Incarcerated mothers, in particular, struggle to maintain contact with their children. More than half of incarcerated mothers do not receive any visits from their children while they are in prison. The single most significant reason for the lack of contact is the children’s distance from their mothers’ prisons, many of which are located far from major cities. Research shows that children with incarcerated mothers particularly struggle with behavioral health issues, which underscores the need for children to maintain contact with their incarcerated parents, especially mothers.

“I’m sixteen years old and my mom has been incarcerated since I was six. I want to be able to visit her regularly and keep her updated on my life” said Darlene Ramirez. “I’m in Los Angeles and she’s in a prison in the Central Valley which is hours away. The long drive is hard to do for my grandma who’s fighting cancer and is taking care of me, so I don’t get to see my mom as often as I’d like.”

In 2019, CDCR released information that only 25% of incarcerated people in California state prisons are placed in institutions less than 100 miles from home. The long distances place a burden on families who do not have the financial means or the time to travel across the state for family visits. Visitation falls off significantly the farther from home a person is incarcerated. 50% of people placed less than 50 miles away from home receive frequent family visitation, but only 15% of people placed 500 miles away receive visitors.

AB 1226 removes contact barriers between children and their incarcerated parents or caregivers by requiring CDCR to assign the incarcerated person to serve their term in the institution closest to their minor child’s home. This bill was voted on and passed in the Assembly Public Safety committee and will be headed to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for another vote.