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Alabama prisons suspend visitations, start screening staff for COVID-19

(STOCK PHOTO)

The Alabama Department of Corrections has suspended visitations and begun screening staff for fever at state prisons due to concerns of COVID-19 entering the facilities. 

“We are closely monitoring the spread of COVID-19, and will be making additional operational and preventative decisions as this situation continues to evolve while keeping our primary directive – maintaining the safety and security of our inmate population, staff, and the public – top of mind at all times,” ADOC said in a statement. 

 Additionally, all legal visits have been suspended, as well as non-emergency medical appointments and inmate transfers between facilities. 

 ADOC’s full statement: 

Maintaining the safety, security, and well-being of our inmate population, staff, and the public is the Alabama Department of Corrections’ (ADOC) highest priority. The ADOC has been working closely with Governor Kay Ivey’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Task Force, the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH), and numerous infectious disease control experts to prepare for and prevent the potential spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the disease it causes, COVID-19, which could significantly impact our operations.

The ADOC recognizes that the proactive, preventative measures we are implementing will be disruptive – particularly for inmates’ families. Rest assured that all inmates in our custody will continue to be provided with the services to which they are entitled, including rehabilitative, medical, dental, and mental health, through the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak. We ask for your patience and understanding, knowing that the changes in how you are able to see or interact with your incarcerated loved ones are temporary and have been put in place for the sole purpose of protecting them and those around them. Although this situation is unprecedented in our lifetimes, we will take all necessary actions to protect staff, inmates and the public.

There currently are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 within any ADOC facilities. Below is an overview of the system-wide preventative measures that have been in place to help ensure we keep this disease from impacting our correctional system:

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  • All visitation, inmate passes, tours, and volunteer entry into our facilities are suspended statewide for 30 days.
  • All inmates will be provided one free call per week (up to 15 minutes) and extended hours of availability.
  • All inmate co-pays (including for medical services not directly related to COVID-19) are suspended for 60 days.
  • All non-emergent inmate community physician appointments and procedures are suspended for 30 days.
  • The ADOC is working with local oncologists to ensure inmates who require chemotherapy continue to receive treatment.
  • Inmate transfers between facilities are suspended (security and healthcare exceptions may be granted)
  • Vocational classes offered to inmates through J.F. Ingram State Technical College will be closed from March 17 – April 3, 2020.
  • General legal visits conducted in-person by attorneys with inmates will be suspended for 30 days. Requests by counsel for an in-person meeting due to urgent matters will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Attorney visits also will be accommodated by confidential phone calls.
  • All Work-Release and Work-Center Programs are suspended for 30 days – no offsite assignments will be permitted.
  • The correctional officer candidate on-site testing event scheduled to occur at Bibb Correctional Facility on March 20, 2020 is postponed until further notice. 
  • All senior leadership and regional trainings are postponed.
  • ADOC Academy will continue operations at this time, with proper precautionary measures in place to protect trainees and staff.
  • In the coming days, all staff will be screened prior to entering the facilities by having their temperature taken. If the individual’s temperature is greater than 100.4, they will be restricted from entering the institution that day. All employees will have temperature screening at the beginning of each shift statewide.
  • The ADOC must maintain critical services; however, any staff who can perform their job functions remotely will be asked to do so per Governor Ivey’s recommendations. This will be implemented at the facility level by March 18, 2020.
  • CDC- and ADPH-approved signage detailing preventative recommendations, signs, and symptoms of COVID-19, and other helpful information is being posted throughout ADOC facilities.
  • All ADOC facilities will be sanitized with CDC-recommended cleaning supplies at an increased frequency to reduce the spread of virulent matter.

Information on these preventative measures is being communicated proactively with inmates via the inmate newsletter and bulletin boards within the facility. The Department also is communicating continuously with staff via numerous avenues.

Due to the unique aspects of each of our facilities and their respective populations, the ADOC remains agile at the institution level regarding how we will address any potential case of COVID-19 based on the factors and risks related to individual cases.

We are closely monitoring the spread of COVID-19, and will be making additional operational and preventative decisions as this situation continues to evolve while keeping our primary directive – maintaining the safety and security of our inmate population, staff, and the public – top of mind at all times

The ADOC will continue to post all public updates for family and friends of incarcerated individuals, as well as the media, on this website page.

Eddie Burkhalter
Written By

Eddie Burkhalter is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

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