6 Ohio prisons to begin in-person visits

Posted at 5:08 PM, Jul 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-07 17:08:59-04

GRAFTON, Ohio — Six Ohio prisons are reopening in-person visitations.

“One of the most significant changes we made in response to COVID-19 was the suspension of in-person visitation,” said Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Director Annette Chambers-Smith. “This decision was not reached lightly because we understand that visiting plays a key role in helping to maintain hope and support positive connections with loved ones. The health and safety of our staff, visitors, and the incarcerated population is our primary concern as we move forward and learn how to live safely in this new reality.”

The visitations will be outdoor-only.

The Dayton Correctional Institution began last week.

The Madison Correctional Institution, Noble Correctional Institution and Southeastern Correctional Institution will be resuming visitation on Wednesday.

Grafton Correctional Institution is expected to resume visitation on July 19 and the Warren Correctional Institution is expected to begin on July 26.

“In deciding which facilities were ready to accept visitors, several factors were taken into consideration including the current status of COVID-19 at the institutions, ongoing surveillance testing, and physical plant capabilities,” said Chambers-Smith. “Through our ongoing monitoring process, we will continue to closely track the virus to determine when other facilities can resume visitation and if visiting should be modified or suspended in locations where visitation is already underway.”

The prisons will follow these protocols:

  • Each institution will create a written visitation plan to communicate detailed instructions to its employees.
  • All institutions will require staff, incarcerated adults, and visitors to wear masks at all times during the visitation process except for specifically documented legal, life, health, or safety considerations and limited documented security considerations.
  • Institutions will provide disposable masks to the visitor(s).
  • Physical visitation space and the discretion of the managing officer will determine the number of daily visitation opportunities ensuring there is a minimum of six-feet of distance between visitors to ensure social distancing.
  • Outdoor visiting will be the primary location for visitation sessions with the indoor visiting rooms being the alternative location for other circumstances, such as inclement weather.
  • Visitation will be limited to two visitors maximum per incarcerated adult per session.
  • Physical contact with visitors will not be permitted to include hugging, kissing, holding hands, or playing cards and board games.
  • Transparent OPI mobile barriers will be introduced to separate the visitor(s) and the incarcerated adult during visitation when experiencing inclement weather and also may be used in outdoor locations.
  • Each facility shall install transparent barriers at the Officer’s station at front entry, visitor processing areas, and in the visiting room to create a barrier between staff and visitors.
  • Visitors and incarcerated adults shall go through the same symptom screening process as employees including each person answering questions and having a temperature check before entering the visitation area.
  • The use of vending machines is prohibited during visitation.
  • Children under the age of 12 will not be permitted to visit during the initial activation phase and reading rooms will remain closed.
  • Hand sanitizer shall be made available in each front entry and visiting room for all persons in the area.
  • A list of COVID-19 symptoms will be posted in visible locations.
  • The duration of each visiting session may be modified by the warden to increase the amount of visiting opportunities available to our guests.
  • Visits shall be managed through a system that would allow for sessions by cohort/housing unit to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Each facility shall coordinate operations to ensure social distancing that may include staggering of guest processing to avoid gathering in the front entry.

Indoor visiting will also resume at the Ohio State Penitentiary on July 15.

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