To blunt COVID-19, in-person visits suspended at Minnesota prisons

Stillwater prison
The grounds of the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Stillwater were open to visitors in May 2014. On Friday, the Department of Corrections announced the cancellation of in-person visitation and a list of other changes meant to help keep COVID-19 from inside prisons.
Jennifer Simonson | MPR News

Visitors won’t be able to see inmates at Minnesota correctional facilities as the state responds to concerns about spreading the novel coronavirus.

The Department of Corrections announced the cancellation of in-person visitation and a list of other changes meant to help keep COVID-19 from inside prisons. There are no reported cases in any of the facilities, officials said.

The DOC said a pandemic response team has been working since early February to address measures to reduce the risk.

Some of the other key measures include waiving medical copays and planning for expanded access to no-cost video visiting.

Staff is planning for the ongoing delivery of essential services including food, water and health services in the worst case scenario of an outbreak in the facilities, according to the department.

The DOC says the department is developing a symptom screening tool for staff and prisoners as well as distributing more bars of soap and adding hand sanitizing stations.

“COVID-19 has not been detected in any facility,” Minnesota Department of Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell said in a news release Friday. “We are actively working to prevent that from happening while simultaneously preparing for the possibility that it will. Our planning includes several considerations to ensure safety for staff, inmates, and people under correctional supervision in the community.”

The department did not say when video planned visiting services and screening tools will be available.

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