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DOC to allow visitation for fully-vaccinated prisoners

Alaska's News Source
Alaska's News Source(Alaska's News Source)
Published: Apr. 19, 2021 at 3:32 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Alaska Department of Corrections has announced that, beginning Wednesday, public visitation will resume.

“We are excited to be able to open our facilities to the public for visitation once again,” Commissioner Nancy Dahlstrom said in a Monday press release. “This has been a challenging year and we appreciate everyone’s patience and flexibility as we gradually restore our facilities to their pre-COVID operations.”

Under the policy changes, inmates must be fully vaccinated to receive visits, but no physical contact will be allowed. Visitors must also undergo screening procedures and wear a mask at all times. Some agencies are critical of the restrictions, which closely mirror attorney visitation rules that were overturned by a judge earlier this month.

Rich Curtner co-chairs the Justice Committee for the Alaska Black Caucus. He pointed to that court order as clear evidence that vaccination status should not play a role in which prisoners can or cannot receive in-person visits.

“I don’t see any reason for distinction between lawyers and family members, or religious visits or other different programming that might be available,” he said.

Last month, the ABC publicly called for DOC to resume in-person visitations. President Celeste Hodge Growden said this first step is exciting, but not enough to ensure that all inmates are being treated fairly.

“It’s not the Department of Corrections against the Alaska Black Caucus,“ Hodge Growden said. “It’s the Alaska Black Caucus trying to make sure that inmates are represented fairly, that they are safe and that we move forward towards justice for everyone.”

ACLU Alaska Communications Director Megan Edge told Alaska’s News Source that her organization supports resuming visitation, but takes issue with a new set of rules that continue holding incarcerated people and their families up to a different standards than DOC employees.

“Correctional officers that live and work in the same housing mods, touching the same railings, phones and countertops as an incarcerated person touches ... They don’t have to be vaccinated,” Edge said. “If the goal is to keep COVID-19 from coming into our prison, then that’s the part of the equation that we have completely missed.”

Visitation will be allowed by appointment only. Those interested in booking visits can call institutions directly to do so. According to DOC, institutional lobbies will also reopen in order to collect bail and contributions to offender trust accounts.

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