In-person visitation will resume at Harrison County jails, starting April 1, Harrison County Sheriff’s Office officials announced Tuesday.
The announcement follows Gov. Greg Abbott’s early March order, relating to the opening of Texas in regards to the COVID-19 disaster, which allows for in-person inmate visitation. The governor’s order, GA-24, directs county and municipal jails to follow guidance from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards regarding visitations.
“The Texas Commission on Jail standards required the sheriff to develop a plan that continues to ensure the safety of the public, staff and inmates at all of their facilities,” HCSO officials explained. “This plan included the frequency and duration of visits, if scheduling is to be required and what safety measure will be implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within their jails.”
Thus, beginning April 1, the county jail will follow its regular visitation plan that is already approved by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, HCSO officials said.
“This addendum and its restrictions are in addition to that approved plan and shall remain in effect, until such time that the DSHS (Department of State Health Services) health recommendations, county judge or the Texas Commission on Jail Standards deem it no longer necessary due to public health concerns,” HCSO officials noted.
Per inmate visitation rules, the lobby areas, due to square footage restraints, shall be limited to no more than 10 visitors inside at any given time. Only one adult visitor will be allowed per inmate visit. And while in the visitation area of the facility, only every other visitation station will be utilized.
“This should allow for social distancing to be maintained,” HCSO officials said.
Additionally, visitors entering the facility lobbies shall be required to wear a mask at all times, have their temperature taken and complete a COVID-19 screening form.
“Should a visitor not have a mask, one will be provided,” HCSO officials said.
To further ensure safety, hand sanitizing stations will also be available to visitors in the lobby areas.
“Visitors refusing to comply with these requirements will be denied entry into visitation areas,” HCSO officials said.
Hand sanitizing stations will also be available to the inmate before entering the visitation area. The rules also require inmates to wear a mask at all times while out of their housing assignments and keep the mask on until returned to their housing assignment.
“Inmates that have lost or need a mask replaced, one will be provided,” HCSO officials said. “Inmates refusing to comply with this requirement will be denied the visit.”
Inmates in medical isolation or restriction are prohibited from in-person visitation, HCSO officials said. And although Gov. Abbott has resumed in-person visits by rescinding all previous orders, local health authorities and Harrison County Jail still strongly recommend video visitation as a safer viable alternative to in-person visits until such time that the DSHS deems COVID-19 no longer a public health concern, HCSO officials said.