Visitation temporarily suspended at North Carolina prisons as a coronavirus precaution

(Source: David Whisenant-WBTV)
(Source: David Whisenant-WBTV)
Updated: Mar. 14, 2020 at 12:18 AM EDT
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NORTH CAROLINA (WBTV) - The North Carolina Division of Prisons will suspend visitation to all the state’s prisons effective Monday, March 16 to minimize the health risks from the spread of coronavirus.

“We are not aware of any cases of COVID-19 in our Prison system. However, ensuring staff health and safety is a top priority for the Division of Prisons. On March 10, 2020, Governor Roy Cooper declared a State of Emergency based on the public health emergency created by COVID-19,” a press release from the North Carolina Department of Public Safety read.

On March 12, North Carolina officials issued specific recommendations to reduce the spread of the infection while we are still in the early stage. Those recommendations included restricting visitors for residential establishments to include correctional facilities.

“We have made this difficult decision in light of the DHHS recommendations and to reduce the risk of this disease getting into prisons and spreading,” said Todd Ishee, Commissioner of Prisons. “This was a difficult decision. I know this will not be good news to offenders and their families, but this is being done with everyone’s health and safety in mind.”

If the threat level from the disease increases over the weekend, visitation may be suspended before Monday. The suspension will be reviewed every 30 days.

“The Division of Prisons will make efforts to allow increased offender phone calls to their families and friends and will work on increasing recreational opportunities while visitation is suspended,” the press release read.

Volunteer visits to the prisons will be suspended as well for the next 30 days. Legal visitation and pastoral care visits will continue to be allowed and they will be subject to medical screening. All vendors and contractors doing business with facilities also will be screened prior to entering a prison facility.

Dozens of other states have taken similar measures in the past few days.

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