A New Family Unity Bill:

Although AB 990 (2021’s Family Unity Bill) passed in both houses of the California Legislature, it was ultimately vetoed by Governor Newsom in October of 2021. Both Newsom and the CDCR criticized the bill for being too extreme and failing to accommodate prisons that lacked visiting infrastructure. In the wake of this news, a new bill - AB 958 - was crafted to address Newsom and CDCR’s concerns, while also restoring the right to visit in California prisons.

Current AB 958 Status:

On May 30th, 2023, AB 958 was passed by the California State Assembly and sent to the Senate. As of June 28th, the bill has passed the Senate Public Safety with a 4-1 vote. It is now headed to Senate Appropriations!

AB 958 would:

  • Restore the right to personal visits for incarcerated persons which – from 1975 to 1997 – was a part of California law. 
  • Restore a meaningful standard of judicial review.
  • Prohibit denials of visiting:
  • Prohibit denying visits for these reasons:
      • as a disciplinary measure for incarcerated folks (except for rule violations directly related to visiting security);
      • based on omissions or errors on visiting applications as relating to visitors’ criminal history (dates, charge, and outcome) and
  • Ensure that visitation can only be restricted or denied for the following reasons:
      • Specified convictions
      • The incarcerated individual is housed in administrative-segregation or the Security Housing Unit
      • A serious (or attempted) rule violations pertaining to visiting,
  • such as:
      • bringing contraband into the visiting area,
      • engaging in sexual conduct with a minor or adults outside of the family visit,
      • committing physical violence during a visit or visit screening,
      • escaping or aiding an escape,
      • etc.
  • Reinstate incarcerated persons’ contact visits that were previously taken away due to reasons unrelated to visiting.
  • Codify a minimum of three in-person visiting days a week.

To join the fight to increase visiting rights in California prisons, join the Coalition for Family Unity at bit.ly/JoinCFU. To contact the CFU, email ivana@prisonerswithchildren.org.

Family Unity Coordinator Ivana Cortez with the Executive Director of Jesse’s Place, Sandra Suares, and her daughter, Zoe Suares at the AB 958 Press Conference Los Angeles. Sandra and Zoe are system-impacted family members and visited Zoe's dad at a California prison for 14.5 years until his release in 2023.

Family Unity Coordinator Ivana Cortez with the Executive Director of Jesse’s Place, Sandra Suares, and her daughter, Zoe Suares at the AB 958 Press Conference Los Angeles. Sandra and Zoe are system-impacted family members and visited Zoe's dad at a California prison for 14.5 years until his release in 2023.

How AB 958 differs from AB 990:

Similar to AB 990, AB 958 would codify the right for incarcerated people to receive visits. However, notable changes have been made regarding the bill’s implementation. 

  • AB 958 specifically delineates how and why visits may be restricted or denied to inmates. It would:
      • Require CDCR to provide a written explanation of the reasons an application to visit is denied, and permit a prospective visitor to reapply after 30 days.
      • Outline categories of conduct and grant institutional authorities the ability to discern what specific acts are forbidden, particularly in relation to sexual conduct.
      • Permit refusal of video calls with a minor if evidence that an incarcerated individual may engage in inappropriate sexual conduct is found.
  • It eliminates the “candor trap” that occurs when prospective visitors are required to detail their history of contact with law enforcement in their application to visit and then denied when they make innocent mistakes. AB 958 requires CDCR to rely on background reports it routinely gathers from the Department of Justice, instead.
  • It provides that jails are not required in-person contact visits, if they lack the appropriate infrastructure to do so. 
      • It recognizes that all visiting may be suspended during a public health emergency. Under such circumstances, AB 958 requires that video calls be offered as a substitute for in-person visits.

6 year-old Aubrianna (Aubri) Arzate visits her grandfather David Arzate at High Desert State Prison as often as her grandmother Kari Arzate can take her. Aubri expresses what visits with “Papa” mean for her.

Brothers, 10 year-old Luis and 11 year-old Moises, share the importance of seeing their father Moises Mendoza, who has been incarcerated for 24 years. The boys have been visiting their dad for 12 years.

Support the 2023 Family Unity Bill: AB 958

The reunification of families through visitation offers incarcerated individuals the opportunity to cultivate strong relationships and support systems that, in turn, reduce recidivism and improve in-custody conduct. This helps avoid costly reincarceration and disciplinary and security proceedings in prisons. Additionally, family visits benefit the development of children with incarcerated parents and reduce intergenerational cycles of incarceration, thus lowering social service spending and fostering healthier California communities. 


Jesus Cortez at Avenal Prison enjoying an in person visit with his sister Maria Aguirre and her kids. Jesus Cortez was released in 2022 after 23 years of incarceration. He attributes his successful release to visits with family during his years of incarceration.

Current Barriers to Maintaining Family Bonds During Incarceration:


  • Visits are treated as a privilege rather than a right: they are denied for disciplinary reasons unrelated to visiting or for simple paperwork errors.
  • Family members with histories of arrest or conviction unrelated to visiting security can be denied visits, further dividing heavily policed communities and families impacted by mass incarceration.
  • Visits can be very expensive and time-consuming. Many individuals in California are incarcerated hundreds of miles away from their homes and visits require travel.
  • Visitors often face long waiting times that use up limited visiting hours.
  • Visitors can be turned away or removed for petty reasons: wearing a V-neck shirt, having inadequate documentation, or holding hands with their loved-one for too long.
  • The screening process can be aggressive and intimidating to visitors, especially children; it can include contraband searches of minors and strip searches of women by correctional staff.
  • Families of individuals who get sick in custody – including individuals who have died of COVID-19 – often receive no notice or opportunity to call or visit their loved-one.
  • Phone and video calls are limited and, historically, grossly overpriced. CDCR recently took steps to increase such access and reduce costs, but those gains need to be guaranteed by law.

All Of Us Or None Fellow Lawrence Cox, Assemblymember and Bill Author Miguel Santiago, and Family Unity Coordinator Ivana Cortez at the AB958 Press Conference in Los Angeles, introducing the 2023 Family Unity Bill to the community.

Authors and Sponsors

2023 Family Unity Bill Introduced by:

Assemblymember and Bill Author Miguel Santaigo (D-53)
and Assemblymember Mia Bonta (D-18).

2023 Family Unity Bill Principal Co-Author:

Senator Maria Elena Durazo (D-26).

2023 Family Unity Bill Co-Authors:

Assemblymember Isaac Bryan (D-55)

Assemblymember Liz Ortega (D-20)

Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-14).

Assemblymember Lori Wilson (D-11).

2023 Family Unity Bill Sponsors:

Alliance For Boys and Men of Color