FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – October 11, 2015
Gov. Brown Signs Important Legislation for Incarcerated People and their Families
Misty Rojo, Justice Now, a member of Californians United for a Responsible Budget
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SACRAMENTO – Earlier this morning, Governor Brown supported family reunification by signing SB 219, regarding the Alternative Custody Program, into law. Authored by Senator Carol Liu (D-La Cañada, Flintridge), the bill expands access to the Alternative Custody Program (ACP), which currently allows eligible incarcerated people to finish their sentences outside of prisons in order to care for their families.
Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB), a statewide coalition of over 70 organizations working to reduce the number of people in prison and the number of prisons and jails in the state, co-sponsored the legislation, with member organization Justice Now, a legal advocacy organization that works with people in women’s prisons, leading the charge.
“I’m a personal testament that the Alternative Custody Program is effective in reuniting people with their families and communities,” said Marianna Gray, a former ACP participant. “With the help of my son, Senator Liu, and dozens of advocates, I was able to participate in this program. There were many difficulties and disappointments I faced in my own journey towards receiving this program, so I know this bill is a step in the right direction.”
SB 219 enacts a responsible timeline for ACP application review, provides applicants with an opportunity to appeal, and ensures that everyone eligible for acceptance into ACP are part of a more transparent and informed process. The bill also removes significant barriers for program entry by specifying that a person’s existing medical or psychiatric condition not be the sole basis for exclusion from ACP. SB 219 also requires the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to assist ACP participants with medical coverage enrollment.
“This program was always intended to support the reunification of incarcerated mothers and their children,” says California State Senator Carol Liu, the author of SB219. “Our recent victory to make this program stronger and more accessible will likely increase the number of people who apply, decrease the number of children in the foster care system, and reduce the destruction that incarceration causes among families.”
Although the program has only been available to women, a court decision earlier this month ordered CDCR to expand the program to men. And last year, the Legislature encouraged the implementation of ACP at the county level.
“This is a major victory for people in prison with dependent family members. It supports family reunification. We know there are further ways to expand this program,” says Diana Zuñiga of CURB. “We want to use this momentum to push for people to be able to participate in the program regardless of conviction offense, and to push counties to implement family reunification strategies as well. Now is the time to continue working for incarcerated people and their children.”
During the 2015 legislative session, Senator Liu supported several additional ways to reduce prison and jail overcrowding and recidivism reduction.
To learn more about the bill, visit: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160SB219