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BSCC Proposes Rule Change On Visitation


2-16-2017

SAN DIEGO (February 16, 2017) -- The Board of State and Community Corrections today approved  revisions to state regulations governing visiting in jails that, going forward, would require access to in-person visitation, except for facilities that are in design, construction or already are offering video-only approaches.

In October 2016, the Governor vetoed a bill that would have prohibited jails from offering only electronic contact, saying in his veto message that the bill “does not provide adequate flexibility and creates a strict mandate.” He directed the BSCC to meet with stakeholders to identify options. In November and December 2016, the BSCC met with numerous groups, including the bill’s sponsors and sheriffs.

The changes in Title 15 and Title 24 of the California Code of Regulations, if approved by the Office of Administrative Law, would prohibit county jail administrators from adopting video-only policies, effective February 16, 2017. Jails that adopted video-only policies prior to the Board action, and those in the planning and construction phases, would not be affected. All jails proposed to be built after that date would have to include in-person visitation space.

Although Title 15 states that jails should provide inmates with a minimum of an hour of visitation time every week, the regulations do not describe the manner in which visiting should be provided. Though the BSCC has counseled that in-person visits are preferable, several counties began offering video visitation either exclusively or as a supplement to in-person visits.

The Board’s recommendation balances policy with the financial considerations of counties that already have invested in video-only visitation, which requires fewer staff to administer and can be a benefit to families for whom traveling to jails is an obstacle. The regulation revision does not prevent counties from supplementing in-person visitation with video if the inmate still has access to face-to-face contact, either directly or through glass dividers.

The BSCC surveyed counties in an attempt to determine how many conduct visitation by video only. Out of 58 counties, five reported that they provide no access to in-person visitation, five other counties lack in-person in at least one facility, and 10 have facilities under construction that will not have space for in-person visitation.

The BSCC is required to establish minimum standards for local correctional facilities. The mission of the BSCC includes providing leadership, coordination and technical assistance to promote effective partnerships and practices in California’s adult and local criminal justice systems.

For more information contact Tracie Cone at tracie.cone@bscc.ca.gov or 916-322-1054