Inmates' families rip rules proposal

    The state wants to tighten regulations on visits at 33 

    By Gary Delsohn -- Bee Staff Writer 
    Published 5:30 a.m. PST Saturday, March 9, 2002 

    They were angry, hurt and indignant, and they came from all over the state to give 
    California prison officials an earful Friday about proposed changes in visitation 
    rules covering 33 state prisons. 

    Families of inmates across California expressed outrage at changes that would 
    limit a kiss or embrace to no more than five seconds, require picture IDs for visitors 
    older than 7 and forbid inmates from holding even their own child on their lap if the 
    child is older than 6. 

    Another proposal would forbid an inmate convicted of drug sales or manufacturing 
    from having any contact visits during the prisoner's first year under lock and key. 

    "They touched a nerve," said Neeve Reddick, a medical insurance administrator 
    who drove to Sacramento from Corcoran, where her husband is serving seven 
    years to life for burglary. 

    "I'm going to go there and continue to visit my husband and put up with their 
    foolishness, but they don't get it. 

    "If you keep taking away and taking away and not giving anything back, they lose 
    their leverage over the inmates. Sooner or later, a man will snap. But a guy who 
    gets visits from loved ones will do anything to be able to see his wife and kids. 
    That's the sad thing." 

    Reddick, who has raised five kids while her husband has been behind bars, was 
    among more than 100 people -- mostly women -- signed up to comment at Friday's 
    hearing before a panel of administrators from the California Department of 

    About 60 people actually spoke, and virtually all characterized the proposed 
    visitation changes as degrading, insulting and even hateful toward inmates and 
    their families. 

    The department is expected to publish its final proposal within the next several 
    weeks. Interested parties would then have 15 days to comment in writing before 
    the rules are reviewed by state administrative law judges. The entire process is 
    likely to be completed by late spring, a corrections spokesman said. 

    "It's beyond insulting. It's inhumane. It just punishes the families," said Chris 
    Jackson of Santa Monica. 

    Greeted by loud applause from other family members when she finished speaking, 
    Jackson said her husband is serving a life sentence at Folsom State Prison for a 
    third-strike conviction on burglary charges. 

    Others testified that the best way to rehabilitate prison inmates is for the state to 
    do all it can to help them maintain strong family relationships, especially with 
    spouses and children. 

    Regulations on visits haven't been overhauled in 11 years, according to 
    department spokesman Russ Heimerich. He said the changes are designed to 
    improve security, cut down on drugs and other contraband being smuggled in, and 
    to actually make it easier for families to know the rules and follow them. 

    A number of speakers Friday were suspicious of the department's motives, claiming 
    the vast majority of drugs are brought into California prisons by guards and other 
    employees. But Heimerich said statistics for 2000 showed that less than 1 percent 
    of "drug-related incidents" involved prison employees. Most drugs come in the mail, 
    visits or "quarterly care packages" that 

    inmates can receive with food and other items, he said. 

    About the Writer 

    The Bee's Gary Delsohn can be reached at (916) 326-5545 or  .