New law requires incarcerated parents be housed near their children

Assemblymember Matt Haney’s AB 1226, known as the “Keep Families Close” bill passed the legislature with bipartisan support and was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom on Friday.

This bill requires the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation 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 the prison closest to their child’s home. AB 1226 doesn’t apply to individuals convicted of certain crimes, such as violence and sex related offenses that already prohibit them from having child visitation rights.

“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 in prison.

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.

In 2019, CDCR released information that only 25 percent 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 percent of people placed 500 miles away receive visitors.

AB 1226 will take effect starting Jan. 1, 2024.