Louisiana resuming contact visits at state-run prisons
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Falling COVID-19 infections and rising vaccination rates are allowing the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections to resume contact visits at state-run prisons, starting Friday at Dixon Correctional Institute.
The agency said contact visits would be allowed Saturday at three more prisons, including the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. Another three prisons will be added Monday, with contact visits reinstated Wednesday at the last, Raymond Laborde Correctional Center.
“Maintaining in person connections with loved ones is critical to a person’s success in prison,” the news release said.
Non-contact visits, with a Plexiglass barrier between inmates and their visitors, resumed in February.
Visitors at least 14 years old must bring proof that they’re fully vaccinated and will be tested for COVID-19 before contact visits. They must be on an inmate’s approved visitation list. And inmates must be fully vaccinated to be eligible for such visits. Masks are recommended but not required.
The rules also call for social distancing, but department spokesman Ken Pastorick said that just means different families have to stay six feet (2 meters) apart — people in the same family can still hug each other.
If the number of cases at any prison goes beyond 0.5% of its population, visitation there will be suspended until the case rate falls below that figure.
The department first suspended visitation on March 12, 2020. Visitation resumed after a year and a day but a surge prompted a second suspension from July 26, 2021 to Oct. 18, 2021. The suspension that is now ending began Jan. 26.
In addition to Angola, visitation resumes Saturday at Allen Correctional Center and Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women at Hunt and Jetson. On Monday it resumes at the David Wade, Elayn Hunt and Rayburn Correctional Centers.
A department webpage — https://doc.louisiana.gov/covid-19-information/ — has more information.
The department said state prisons have begun phasing in general reopening plans, which include a limited number of volunteers for faith-based programming. It says vocational and educational programs are back to near pre-COVID-19 levels. In addition, face-to-face attorney inmate visits are being reinstated for prisoners and attorneys who are both fully vaccinated.
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