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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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