Texas Department of Criminal Justice to Resume In-Person Visits With Clean COVID-19 Test

File photo of a Texas prison.
Texas Department of Criminal Justice

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice says they'll once again allow in-person visitation at all state jails beginning Monday, but there are a few stipulations including that all guests must pass a rapid COVID-19 test before entering the jail.

Visitation was suspended March 13, 2020 after a disaster declaration was issued by Gov. Greg Abbott (R). The TDCJ said the decision was "necessary to limit the introduction of COVID-19 into correctional facilities" and that "through an aggressive testing campaign and strong mitigation efforts, the agency has seen a significant reduction of coronavirus cases in the inmate population and is prepared to begin allowing limited visitation."

According to the TDCJ, visitors will have to take a 15-minute rapid COVID-19 test at the jail before being allowed inside.

Once inside, the guest can stay for up to one hour but no contact will be allowed, barriers will be in place and no items can be exchanged.

"The entire visit seating area and phones will be sanitized routinely with a 10% bleach solution or vital oxide," the TDCJ said.

The TDCJ said all visitors must wear appropriate face covering as they approach the highway gate check point. Should they not have one, a mask will be provided. Hand sanitizer will also be available to visitors. Staff assigned to visitation areas will be required to wear N95 masks and gloves. Sanitation stations will be available in visitation areas.

Further, inmates will only be allowed two in-person visits per month, for now, and only one adult can visit at a time. Video visits will not count against the number of in-person visits each month.

Visitation times are being expanded to Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.

"Families will be encouraged to call the day before the visit to verify if the visit is still scheduled and to arrive at least one hour in advance of their scheduled visit time," the TDCJ said in a statement.

Inmates on medical isolation or restriction are prohibited from in-person visitation.

Visits must be scheduled in advance and visitors on official visitation lists may begin registering for in-person visits on Wednesday by calling the unit of assignment of the inmate they would like to visit. In coming days, the call-in scheduling system will be replaced by an on-line visit booking system.

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