Bill mandating emergency phone calls for incarcerated people hospitalized with serious medical conditions moves to Newsom’s desk


Soraya Marashi


A bill requiring the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to allow incarcerated individuals and specified individuals outside of CDCR to make emergency phone calls when that incarcerated person has been hospitalized for a serious medical condition has made its way to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk.


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These requirements also apply when an incarcerated person’s family member has become seriously ill and died while that person has been incarcerated. 

Senate Bill 1139, sponsored by Sen. Sydney Kamlager (D – Los Angeles), also requires CDCR to inform people included in the incarcerated individual’s medical release of information form about their health status, as well as to facilitate phone calls between the incarcerated individual and the people included in their medical release form if the incarcerated individual consents.

According to Kamlager, this bill will help improve the treatment of incarcerated individuals during medical emergencies. 

“Prisons were hit particularly hard during the COVID-19 pandemic due to their very nature of confinement, leading to increased contamination,” the author stated. “Hundreds of incarcerated people died. Many of these people died alone—no family members were present or notified to be a comfort to them in their time of need. Unfortunately, for incarcerated people this type of treatment during medical emergencies is not limited to the COVID-19 pandemic. Incarcerated people and their loved ones have suffered this way for years. 

Incarcerated men and women who endure medical emergencies, and even slow deaths, suffer/pass away alone more often than not. Not only is this inhumane for the incarcerated person suffering from illness, but a terrible tragedy for their law-abiding families. SB 1139 will implement a format of guided steps and tools to afford incarcerated people and their families a humane health care process infused with the dignity they and their loved ones deserve.”

Organizations in support of the bill include Prison From the Inside Out (co-sponsor of the bill), the Humane Prison Hospice Project, and the California Public Defenders Association, among others. Organizations opposed to the bill include the California Correctional Peace Officers Association and the Riverside Sheriffs’ Association. 

In its opposing statement, the Riverside Sheriffs’ Association said:

“We are extremely concerned that the safety and security of inmates, civilian staff and custodial officers will be dangerously compromised by publicizing the location of certain inmates who are temporarily relocated for medical care to a community hospital. Even more troubling, the bill mandates that certain inmates be provided in-person contact visits at these unsecured locations. Informing members of the public that potentially high risk inmates are located in a nearby hospital puts the inmate, as well as everyone near or around the inmate in jeopardy.”

The bill was enrolled and presented to Newsom on Sept. 6th and currently awaits further action.