Florida halts inmate visits to keep coronavirus out of prisons

Inmates will still be able to receive legal visitors. But other types of visitors will be banned through April 5.
A thunderstorm moves over Florida's Death Row at Union Correctional Institution in Raiford in 2018.
A thunderstorm moves over Florida's Death Row at Union Correctional Institution in Raiford in 2018. [ CHERIE DIEZ | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published March 12, 2020|Updated March 12, 2020

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Inmates will no longer be able to receive visitors in Florida’s prisons, the Department of Corrections announced Wednesday night.

The agency emphasized that so far no inmates have tested positive for COVID-19. But state officials said they need to be cautious because a contagious disease could quickly spread inside a prison environment.

“Every month FDC is fortunate to have more than 30,000 visitors from across the country enter our correctional institutions to visit their loved ones,” said Secretary Mark Inch in a statement. “During this State of Emergency, it’s critical we take all precautions necessary to minimize the potential risk to the inmate population and staff charged with their care and custody."

Legal visits will still be permitted. But other types of visitations to all state prison facilities will be halted through April 5. Prisoners will still be allowed access to video visits, phone calls and mail.

Those still allowed to enter correctional facilities will be screened for: International travel to China, Iran, Italy or South Korea within the past 14 days; flu-like symptoms such as coughing, fever or trouble breathing; and those who have had contact with anyone who has tested positive for the coronavirus.

The ban could extend past April 5. The decision to reinstate visitations will be made by corrections officials and the state Department of Health.

Click here for more information about the agency’s ban on visitation.

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