Visitation to begin again at federal prisons in October

WASHINGTON (AP) — The federal Bureau of Prisons will begin allowing inmates to have visitors again in October, almost seven months after visits were suspended at the 122 federal prisons across the U.S., according to a memo obtained by The Associated Press.

The visitation plan — detailed in a memo to senior bureau officials on Monday — instructed wardens to “immediately begin developing local procedures to reinstate social visiting.”

Social visiting is scheduled to begin no later than Oct. 3, though physical contact will be prohibited, according to the memo. Inmates and visitors would be required to wear face coverings and visitors would have their temperatures taken and would be questioned about whether they have shown any coronavirus-related symptoms.

The Bureau of Prisons had suspended all visitation in March as part of its coronavirus response plan. For months, the agency has struggled with a ballooning number of coronavirus cases among inmates.

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As of Monday, more than 12,500 inmates and 1,583 staff members had tested positive for the virus. The agency said 10,607 inmates and 922 of the staff members had recovered. A total of 118 inmates have died since late March.

Under the Bureau of Prisons plan that began in March, there have been no social visits at any bureau facilities, but inmates were eligible to receive extra minutes of phone time per month. Legal visits were also suspended, though officials said accommodations could be made on a case-by-case basis.

The new procedures call for tables, chairs and other high-touch surfaces to be disinfected between visits and for visiting times to be moved around to account for social distancing and other factors. Under the guidelines, all inmates should have an opportunity for a visit at least twice a month, the memo said.

Plastic glass barriers will be in place to prevent visitors and inmates from having any physical contact, and if the barrier isn’t in place, there will be a requirement that they remain 6 feet apart, the memo said.

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Sisak reported from New York.

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