Gov. Brown veto of SB 1157 allows jails to ban visits

By Kevin D. Sawyer

Gov. Jerry Brown has vetoed a bill that would have prohibited exclusive use of video visits at local correctional facilities.

Brown said in his September veto message of SB 1157 that he is concerned by the recent trend in cutting back in-person jail visits. But he said the bill lacks flexibility and provides a strict ban on video visits.

Sen. Holly J. Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, who authored the bill said, “I’m saddened by the fact that while the governor expressed concern about the lack of in-person visits with family negatively impacting rehabilitative goals, he fell woefully short of protecting a basic human right.”

“My heart is so heavy right now,” said Zoevina Pariani-Delgado, The Oakland Post reported. She said when incarcerated, she received in-person visits from family members. “Visitation had such a big impact on my re-entry and on my family. Real visits allowed me to stay connected with my children.”

According to the Post, California has at least 18 counties that “severely restrict” in-person visits, have eliminated them, or plan to eliminate them in some jails. Because SB 1157 was vetoed, family and friends of incarcerated children, women and men will have to pay for video calls from home or travel to county lockups and visit by video.

“Both the visitor and the incarcerated person are in the same building,” the Post reported. “But instead or having a real visit, they can only see each other through a video screen.” If there is an equipment failure, they are unable to see their loved ones at all.

“This is horrible news for families of incarcerated people,” said Mike Cortez, according to the Post. “We’re human beings. We need to have a connection with our family members.”

A 2015 report by Prison Policy Initiative stated 74 percent of the county jails in the United States that adopt video visitation technology eventually eliminate in-person visits.

“The increased use of video visitation as a replacement for in-person visitation in California is part of a nationwide trend,” the group said.

In 2014, a federal Department of Justice study found that maintaining contact with family through in-person visits is one of the essentials to reduce recidivism and increase the possibility of successful re-entry to society.

Brown said, “I am directing the Board of State and Community Corrections to work with stakeholders to explore ways to address these issues.”

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