OLYMPIA - The state Department of Corrections has suspended visitations to prisoners at state facilities in the wake of two corrections workers testing positive for COVID-19.
Meanwhile, the Okanogan County Jail uses video visitation for general visiting and is not changing that policy un-less advised to do so by health officials, said Sheriff Tony Hawley. Legal counsel will continue to have contact visits if they wish.
But the jail is suspending services offered by groups such as Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous.
“We will get these services access as soon as possible,” Hawley said. “Ministry visits will be allowed but will main-tain a barrier between them.”
One of the ill state corrections workers is stationed at the Monroe Correctional Complex, while the other works at the department’s headquarters.
State corrections officials said they recognize the importance of family visitation, programming and other opportu-nities provided to incarcerated persons according to their mission of improving public safety by positively changing lives.
Consistent with state Department of Health guidelines, the department “is working to implement enhanced screen-ing protocols for all employees/contract staff, incarcerated individuals and others entering DOC facilities and field offices to include taking temperatures and answering screening questionnaires.”
Until those protocols are in place, the department is:
-Suspending visitation at all correctional facilities in Washington, including extended family visits. Corrections has authorized reimbursement for families scheduled for extended family visits.
-Restricting access for all individuals, with the exception of employees/contract staff and legal professionals, to the Monroe Correctional Complex, Washington Corrections Center and Washington Corrections Center for Women.
-Suspending all tours and events involving four or more outside guests at all facilities.
“The Department did not make this decision without extensive discussion,” said Secretary Steve Sinclair. “We know how important visitation and events are to our incarcerated population and their families. Leading up to this, we’d implemented increased cleaning protocols, distributed enhanced health services guidelines and encouraged the incarcerated population to take extra precautions.
“While we anticipate moving to enhanced screening fairly soon so we can restore visitation, we encourage friends and family to keep in contact during this time utilizing JPay, video visiting, telephone calls and mail correspondence.”