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Bill By Assemblyman Quirk Would Fix Prison 'Catch-22'

Prisoners need notarized forms to get visits from their kids. But they lack proper ID. Why does this matter? Because family ties help prevent repeat offenses, backers say.

 

"Catch 22" is the title of a novel that came to describe a no-win situation arising from conflicting bureaucratic rules.

Prisoners with children are caught in a catch 22 if they want their children to visit them behind bars, or leave their kids with a relative instead of in foster care.

So says Cynthia Chandler, the prison rights attorney who drafted AB 625, a bill introduced by Assemblyman Bill Quirk.

Quirk's district includes Ashland, Cherryland, Fairview, San Lorenzo, Castro Valley, Union City and Fremont.

Chandler said the problem is that prisoners have to sign a notarized form in order to authorize a visit from a child or to leave that child under the guardianship of a relative.

To notarize a document a person needs a valid ID.

Prisoners are allowed only one form of identification, Chandler said. It is a California prison ID.

But that California prison ID is not on the list of identifications that notaries can accept said Chandler, who is a notary as well as an attorney.

This catch 22 disproportionately affect female prisoners Chandler said.

If a man is in prison, and the mother of his children is not, she can take of such paperwork.

But a single mother behind bars lacks the ID to get forms notarized, Chandler said.

Eighty percent of the women behind bars have children, and the vast majority of these have no legal partner who could handle the paperwork, according to Justice Now, the nonprofit pushing the bill.

AB 625 proposes a simple fix.

It says that a person who is in prison, and has a current prison ID, can present that prison ID to a notary as sufficient proof of identity.

Chandler says maintaining strong family bonds is the best way to keep a person from becoming a repeat offender. Visits with parents can also be helpful for the children of inmates.

AB 625 passed the Assembly earlier this month on a vote 76 to zero with three abstentions.

It next goes to a hearing before the state Senate Judiciary Committee.

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