Washington prisons to resume in-person visits

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — In-person visits will soon resume at Washington state correctional facilities, the state Department of Corrections announced Monday.

The state suspended all visitations at correctional facilities on March 13, 2020 due to COVID-19, so it’s been over a year since in-person visits were allowed, the Bellingham Herald reported.

“With the number of vaccinations rising, the department has finalized months of planning for operations to safely reopen structured in-person visitation,” a Corrections press release said.

Approved visitors — those who have gone through the process to get on an incarcerated person’s “Approved Visitor List” — can now submit an appointment request form online. Visits are scheduled to start May 9, which is Mother’s Day.

One-hour visits with people 16 years old or older will be allowed once per month, and visitors will need to pass a COVID-19 screening.

Visits will be scheduled by cohort, with incarcerated people grouped based on living units and programs, as an outbreak mitigation strategy, according to the DOC. Visiting stations will be sanitized between visits and visits won’t be allowed at facilities “under outbreak status.”

“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,” said Deputy Secretary Julie Martin in a statement. “We’re eager to reopen visitation safely to protect visitors, incarcerated individuals and staff, especially on Mother’s Day.”