The Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) recently announce that their Safe Start Corrections Visitation, a gradual yet steady approach to resuming modified operations across the correctional system, is moving forward, with first visit sessions set to occur on May 9, 2021.
When the COVID-19 outbreak hit the country in March 2020, DOC was forced to temporarily close visitation for safety reasons and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in its facilities. With the number of vaccinations rising, the department has finalized months of planning for operations to safely reopen structured in-person visitation.
Approved visitors are now able to access an online COVID-19 Prison Visit Appointment Request form to schedule their visit, with first visit sessions beginning on May 9. According to officials, visits will occur once a month, for one hour, to equitably allow time for as many individuals as possible to have time to visit, while ensuring COVID-19 safety and sanitation protocols are followed. Although in-person visitation is designed as no-contact, it allows incarcerated individuals and their visitors to safely spend time together in person.
Visits will be scheduled by cohort, an outbreak mitigation strategy where incarcerated individuals are grouped together based on assigned living unit and programs. After utilizing the new online appointment request tool to schedule a visit, all visitors must pass an in-person COVID-19 screening to include a screening questionnaire and temperature checks at the facility prior to the visit. Visiting stations will be sanitized in between each visit session.
Facilities under outbreak status will not be open for visitation.
“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. “We’re eager to reopen visitation safely to protect visitors, incarcerated individuals and staff, especially on Mother’s Day.”