After a disruption of more than a year, in-person visits resumed this week at Washington State Department of Corrections facilities, according to a news release from the DOC. The first official in-person visits occurred on May 9, Mother’s Day.
Approved visitors must go online to schedule visits, which will initially be allowed for one hour once per month per visitor, according to the news release. The guidelines are intended to allow access for as many visitors as possible while maintaining safety and sanitation standards to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the department said.
Before visiting, all visitors must pass an in-person COVID-19 screening at the facility, including a temperature check. Visiting stations will be sanitized in between each session.
The DOC temporarily shut down in-person visits in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. To date, the DOC reports there have been 6,234 confirmed cases and 14 deaths among people incarcerated in DOC facilities and 1,242 cases and two deaths among staff.
Deputy Secretary Julie Martin said the department had been eager to resume visits. “The pandemic has been hard on many people, including family members — spouses, parents and children — of our incarcerated individuals who have not been able to visit in person for over a year,” she said.
“In 3 years I never missed a weekend, until this horrible Covid shut it all down, to be back was a overwhelmingly emotional feeling,” said one person in a post on the Washington State Department of Corrections’ Facebook page.