BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                  SB 962
                                                                  Page  1

          Date of Hearing:   June 15, 2010
          Chief Counsel:      Gregory Pagan


                         ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC SAFETY
                                 Tom Ammiano, Chair

                      SB 962 (Liu) - As Amended:  April 20, 2010

           
          SUMMARY  :   Allows for the use of video or teleconference  
          technology in order for prisoners to participate in judicial  
          proceedings involving their parental rights or a dependency  
          petition for their child.  Specifically,  this bill  :   

          1)Provides that a prisoner who is a parent of a child involved  
            in a dependency hearing and who has either waived his or her  
            right to physical presence at the hearing, or has not been  
            ordered before the court may, at the court's discretion, in  
            order to facilitate the parent's participation, be given the  
            opportunity to participate in the hearing by videoconference,  
            if that technology is available, and if that participation  
            otherwise complies with the law.  If video conferencing is not  
            available, teleconferencing may be utilized to facilitate  
            parental participation.  

          2)States that because of the significance of dependency court  
            hearings for parental rights and children's long-term care,  
            physical attendance by the parent at the hearing is preferred  
            to participation by videoconference or teleconference, and  
            provides that these provisions should not be construed as to  
            limit a prisoner's right to physically attend judicial  
            proceedings and does not authorize the use of videoconference  
            or teleconference to replace in- person family visits with  
            prisoners.

          3)Provides that a prisoner shall not lose internal job placement  
            opportunities, be removed from a court-ordered course, or be  
            denied any earned privileges as a result of his or her  
            participation in person or by videoconference or  
            teleconference in dependency court hearings, unless the  
            prisoner is absent from the institution for more than 10 days.

          4)Authorizes the California Department of Corrections and  
            Rehabilitation (CDCR) to establish a pilot project to  








                                                                  SB 962
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            facilitate the participation of incarcerated parents in  
            dependency court hearings regarding their children, and that  
            the costs of the pilot project shall be funded with private  
            funds and implemented only after a determination is made by  
            the Department of Finance that private donations, sufficient  
            to fully support the activities of the project, have been  
            deposited with the state.

           EXISTING LAW  :

          1)Provides that in any proceeding that seeks to terminate the  
            parental rights of any prisoner or any proceeding which seeks  
            to adjudicate the child of a prisoner a dependent child of the  
            court, the superior court of the county in which the  
            proceeding is pending, or a judge thereof, shall order notice  
            of any court proceedings transmitted to the prisoner, as  
            specified.  [Penal Code Section 2625(b).]

          2)Requires the temporary removal of a prisoner from an  
            institution for the prisoner's production before the court  
            where a prisoner has advised the court of his or her desire to  
            be present during court proceedings involving the prisoner's  
            child, as specified.  No proceeding involving the termination  
            of parental rights or adjudication of a child as a dependent  
            child of the court may be held without the physical presence  
            of the prisoner or the prisoners attorney, unless the court  
            has before it a knowing waiver of the right of physical  
            presence signed by the prisoner or an affidavit signed by the  
            warden, superintendent, or other person in charge of the  
            institution, or his or her designated representative stating  
            that the prisoner has, by express statement or action,  
            indicated an intent not to appear at the proceeding.  [Penal  
            Code Section 2625(d).]

          3)Defines "prisoner" to include any individual in custody in a  
            state prison, California Rehabilitation Center, or a county  
            jail, or who is a ward of the Department of the Youth  
            Authority or who, upon a verdict or finding was insane at the  
            time of committing an offense, or mentally incompetent to be  
            tried or adjudged to punishment, is confined in a state  
            hospital for the care and treatment of the mentally  
            disordered, or in any other public or private treatment  
            facility.  [Penal Code Section 2625(a).]

           FISCAL EFFECT  :   Unknown








                                                                  SB 962
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           COMMENTS  :   

           1)Author's Statement  :  According to the author, "The Legislature  
            should remove barriers to participation in dependency hearings  
            in order to promote family reunification and decrease the  
            number of children in the child welfare system. 

            "This bill allows incarcerated parents to participate in a  
            child dependency hearing via video-conference, if the  
            technology is available, for any contested hearing or a  
            proceeding that could result in termination of parental  
            rights.

            "This bill ensures a prisoner in custody shall not lose  
            internal job placement opportunities, be removed from a  
            court-ordered course, or be denied privileges earned in a  
            correctional institution due to participation in these  
            proceedings unless the inmate is absent from the institution  
            for longer than 10 days.

            "Providing prisoners the option of participating in parental  
            rights hearings by video-conference improves their access to  
            the judicial process and to rehabilitation programs.  The use  
            of this technology also increases the information available to  
            the court, and decreases continuances, security risks, and the  
            costs associated with transporting incarcerated parents to the  
            hearings.

            "The Legislature should remove barriers to participation in  
            dependency hearings in order to promote family reunification  
            and decrease the number of children in the child welfare  
            system." 


           2)What This Bill Would Do  :  This bill allows for the use of  
            conferencing technology for prisoners to participate in  
            judicial proceedings involving their parental rights or a  
            dependency petition for their child under Welfare and  
            Institutions Code Section 300.  Current law provides prisoners  
            with the right to attend these proceedings; this bill provides  
            additional conferencing technology options for how they could  
            participate, subject to availability, at the discretion of the  
            court, and if the participation otherwise complies with the  
            law.








                                                                  SB 962
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          This bill also provides that prisoners shall not lose internal  
            job placement opportunities, be removed from a court-ordered  
            course, or be denied any earned privileges as a result of his  
            or her participation in these proceedings, whether in person  
            or by videoconference or teleconference, unless the prisoner  
            is absent from the institution for this purpose for more than  
            10 days.

          Finally, this bill authorizes CDCR to establish a pilot project  
            to facilitate the participation of incarcerated parents in  
            dependency court hearings regarding their children, to be  
            funded privately, as specified.

           REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION  :

           Support 
           
          Friends Outside (Sponsor)
          Los Angeles Dependency Lawyers, Inc.  (Sponsor)
          California Commission on the Status of Women
          California Public Defenders Association
          Children's Law Center of Los Angeles
          Family Law Section of the State Bar of California 
          Judicial Council of California 
          County Welfare Directors Association of California 
          Service Employees International Union, Local 1000
          Taxpayers for Improving Public Safety

           Opposition 
           
          None


           Analysis Prepared by  :    Gregory Pagan / PUB. S. / (916)  
          319-3744