Department of Correction to reopen prisons to visitors

Social distancing and Plexiglas screens protect prisoners and visitors from COVID-19 at Morris Community Corrections Center in Dover. (Submitted photo)

DOVER — In-person inmate visitation will restart at Delaware Department of Correction (DOC) facilities Monday, June 29.

Visits must be scheduled in advance directly through DOC facilities. Registration for visitations will begin Monday, June 22.

In-person visitation has been suspended since March 11 as a precaution to protect inmates and staff as COVID-19 infection spread to Delaware. Last week the DOC issued a 12-week report to highlight its comprehensive effort to contain the disease in the state’s correctional system.

According to the report, out of the more than 4,300 people who are incarcerated in Delaware’s nine prisons and work release centers, only two tested positive for COVID-19 — both from the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, the state’s largest prison. The report also said 137 inmates have fully recovered from the virus.

When announcing the resumption of in-person visitation, DOC Commissioner Claire DeMatteis said the number of inmates currently infected is down to one.

“Over the past three months we have worked effectively to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and thanks to our extensive screening, cleaning, monitoring, testing, and tracing efforts we currently have only one inmate with the illness across our entire correctional system,” Commissioner DeMatteis said in a press release. “As a result, we are prepared to cautiously restart in-person visitation on June 29. We must take the ongoing threat of COVID-19 seriously and this is not the time to let our guard down. We will continue our aggressive proactive measures to guard against infection and spread of this disease in all of our facilities.”

Visitation will initially be restricted to one adult visitor per inmate per visit and all visitors will be required to wear DOC-issued face masks at all times while in a correctional facility. The face masks will be provided to the visitor upon arrival and visitors should leave their personal face masks in their vehicle before entry.

Plexiglass barriers will be constructed in visitation areas to reduce the threat of transmission during visits. Hand sanitizer will also be provided.

All visitors will receive a forehead temperature check with a thermometer as part of a screening when entering the facility. The screening also includes a questionnaire about their medical condition and if they’ve had contact with someone who has been tested for COVID-19 or is in quarantine.

All visitors will also be required to fully complete and sign a disclaimer form before the visit.

Visitors are not permitted to enter any DOC facility if they are in isolation due to a positive COVID-19 test, have shown symptoms in the past 30 days, have been in contact with someone who has tested positive or has been in quarantine within the past 14 days.

If a visitor tests positive for COVID-19 after their visit, they must immediately notify the DOC so that contact tracing can be initiated, in collaboration with public health officials.

DOC efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19 included extensive screening of any person who entered a facility, use of face masks by all employees and more than half of inmates, proactive testing, isolation of all suspected cases and twice-daily cleanings of all facilities.

“Deliberate and sustained actions have helped mitigate the risk of COVID-19 in Delaware’s correctional system,” said Commissioner DeMatteis. “We will continue to aggressively screen, clean, monitor, test, isolate, trace, and treat to stay ahead of this invisible threat.”

The DOC’s expanded phone and video visitation which began in March, will still continue as in-person visitation resumes.

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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