Harrisburg, PA – Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) Secretary John Wetzel announced today that in-person inmate visitation will be phased in at select DOC facilities in the coming days, with remaining facilities to follow. On-site visits were suspended on March 13, 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In-person visitation will first resume at five DOC facilities: SCI Laurel Highlands, SCI Waymart, SCI Muncy, SCI Cambridge Springs, and the Quehanna Boot Camp.
Decisions regarding the reinstatement of in-person visits at each location are based on inmate vaccination rates, percentage of COVID-19 cases among the inmate population, and results from the DOC's wastewater testing program that monitors for elevated levels of the COVID-19 virus.
"Our mission is to reinstate in-person visits while not significantly increasing the number of infections within our facilities," said Secretary Wetzel. "Reintegrating visitation in a methodical, staggered manner – along with enhanced safety measures -- allows the DOC to monitor wastewater testing results and use objective data to ensure facilities have continued success managing COVID-19."
To comply with ongoing COVID-19 mitigation requirements, visits must now be scheduled online at least three days in advance. Secretary Wetzel stressed that initial demand will be high, and available timeslots will be limited. No-cost video visits remain an option for people to connect with incarcerated loved ones. The Pennsylvania DOC has facilitated 361,000 video visits between incarcerated individuals and their families and friends since March 2020.
The first DOC facilities to resume on-site visitation are listed below. Information on scheduling an in-person or video visit and the reopening of DOC facilities is available at cor.pa.gov.
|SCI Laurel Highlands||May 22, 2021|
|SCI Waymart||May 27, 2021|
|SCI Muncy||May 30, 2021|
|SCI Cambridge Springs||May 31, 2021|
|Quehanna Boot Camp||June 3, 2021|
Available visitation timeslots are determined by each facility, based on an inmate's housing location within the prison. Each visit will be at least one hour in duration.
Established visiting rules remain in effect. Additionally, visitors will be required to complete a COVID questionnaire and temperature screening. All inmates and visitors ages 2 and older will be issued a disposable facemask, which must be worn for the duration of the visit. Visiting rooms will be configured in a way that allows for social distancing between each visiting group. Visits can be cancelled by the facility if the rules are not followed.
"COVID-19 remains a significant threat, particularly in congregate settings like prisons," said Secretary Wetzel. "By design, our mitigation efforts are stronger than what may be in place in the general public because it is critically important to keep COVID out of our facilities to the greatest extent possible."
As visitation ramps up within state correctional institutions, the DOC Bureau of Community Corrections and Parole Field Services will also move to less restrictive COVID-19 mitigation requirements.
For more information on the impact of COVID-19 within the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, visit the COVID-19 dashboard.
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