Visits Halted in Federal Prisons, Immigration Centers Over Virus

WASHINGTON (AP) — Inmates at all 122 federal correctional facilities across the country will no longer be allowed visits from family, friends or attorneys for the next 30 days, in response to the threat of the coronavirus, officials told The Associated Press on Friday.

The restrictions, now in effect, were portrayed as a precaution, since no federal inmates or Bureau of Prisons staff members have tested positives for COVID-19. It was unclear if any inmates have been tested. The officials said some exceptions could be made for legal visits.

The plan to temporarily suspend visitation, curtail staff travel and pause inmate transfers is part of the bureau’s action plan for concerns over the spread of the new coronavirus for the 175,000 inmates in Bureau of Prisons custody.

Correctional officers and other Bureau of Prisons staff members who work in facilities in areas with “sustained community transmission” or at medical referral centers — which provide advanced care for inmates with chronic or acute medical conditions — would be subject to enhanced health screenings. Those include having their temperature taken before they report for duty each day.

The restrictions, described in an action plan obtained by the AP, will remain in effect for 30 days and then will be re-evaluated. Unlike a security lockdown, inmates will not be locked in cells.

The restrictions come as courts have suspended or delayed trials and as classes, sports events, concerts and conferences are canceled across the nation in an effort to stop the spread of the virus.

Separately on Friday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement also said it would temporarily suspend social visits at all of its detention facilities across the U.S. Officials said there were no detainees who had confirmed cases of COVID-19 and that canceling visitation was precautionary to “further safeguard those in our care.”

ICE is holding about 37,888 immigrants in more than 130 facilities including local jails and prisons.

By Michael Balsamo for pbs.org
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