Inmates' families rip rules proposal
The state wants to tighten regulations on visits
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
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
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
"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
About the Writer
The Bee's Gary Delsohn can be reached at (916) 326-5545