Update, 9/30/10–Governor Schwarzenegger signed SB 1266 into law today. It will take effect on January 1, 2011.
Together with you in the love of our children,
Glenn Sacks, MA
Executive Director, Fathers and Families
Ned Holstein, M.D., M.S.
Founder, Chairman of the Board, Fathers and Families
California SB 1266 (Liu Inmates: alternative custody) is a prison reform bill designed to help protect the loving bonds mothers who are nonviolent offenders share with their children. According to the Legislative Counsel’s Digest:
This bill would authorize the Secretary of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to offer a program under which female inmates, pregnant individuals, and or inmates who, immediately prior to incarceration, were primary caregivers of dependent children, as defined, who are committed to state prison may be allowed to participate in a voluntary alternative custody program in lieu of confinement in state prison.
The bill would define an alternative custody program to include confinement to a residential home, a residential drug or treatment program, or a transitional care facility during the hours designated by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Fathers & Families’ legislative representative Michael Robinson has been working with the staffers of various state senators to get the bill amended to include custodial fathers (including those who only have joint legal but not joint physical custody) as well as custodial mothers. The bill, with Fathers & Families’ amendments, has now passed out of the Senate Public Safety Committee. Our amendments include Section G, where “mothers” is changed to “parents” and the following language is added:
Research also demonstrates that a father’s involvement in his child’s life greatly improves the child’s chances for success. Helping incarcerated fathers foster stronger connections with their children, where appropriate, can have positive effects for children. Strong family connections help to ensure that fathers stay out of prison once they are released.
Fathers & Families’ official support letter can be seen here. In it we wrote:
Fathers & Families believes that SB 1266 will help incarcerated parents stay connected to their children. We are concerned that many mothers and fathers incarcerated for nonviolent offenses are being needlessly separated from their children, and feel that SB 1266 will help protect these loving bonds. We also believe that children are better off living with their mothers or fathers, presuming parental fitness, than in foster care or with other relatives.
As the Legislative Counsel’s Digest notes:
“Separating parents from children has a substantial impact on their futures. Children of inmates are much more likely than their peers to become incarcerated. Research suggests that mothers who are able to maintain a relationship with their children are less likely to return to prison.
“Research also demonstrates that a father’s involvement in his child’s life greatly improves the child’s chances for success. Helping incarcerated fathers foster stronger connections with their children, where appropriate, can have positive effects for children. Strong family connections help to ensure that fathers stay out of prison once they are released.”
We support SB 1266. Fathers & Families commends Senator Carol Liu for carrying this timely bill, and we urge all members to support this legislation.