The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation says that it will now let gay and lesbian prisoners have overnight family visitation with registered domestic partners.

The American Civil Liberties Union announced this proposed policy change on Monday, the same day the Department held a public hearing regarding the policy.

The ACLU believes this change in policy can only help gay and lesbian prisoners as they attempt to put their lives back in order.

Alex Cleghorn, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Northern California, said:

“We are pleased that the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has recognised that lesbian and gay prisoners also form lasting commitments.

“They are more likely to be productive members of society when they are given the opportunity to nurture their relationships through family visits.”

The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation requested this change as a result of the ACLU’s efforts.

The organisation sent a letter to prison officials for the registered domestic partner of Vernon Foeller, a prisoner serving time for a burglary conviction.

The ACLU told the officials that it was not legal under California law for the prison to keep domestic parteners from seeing each other.

Due to the ACLU’s action, the men were permitted a visit in December 2006. (Foeller was released April 22, 2007.)

Foeller believes he benefited greatly from the visit.

“Being able to spend quality time with my partner gave us the opportunity to reconnect to one another and to begin planning for our future together out of prison,” he said.

“My partner really did stick with me through thick and thin. Just knowing that he still believes in me gave me the confidence to start believing in myself again.”

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