Because in-person visitation for families and friends was cancelled, inmates began receiving two free phone calls each week. Since the first week of May, inmates have also been able to have video visitation with eligible inmates receiving 10 minutes of virtual visitation through a secure and encrypted service, at no cost to the inmates or their visitors.
In the past, staff and volunteers have provided educational, enrichment and religious programs to inmates. Inmate Services, Security and IT staff have worked closely together to help deliver similar programming and now, thanks in part to secure remote access, inmates may take GED, ESL and Life Learning classes, view faith services from local houses of worship, and participate in reentry preparation.
To protect all inmates, new inmates are initially housed separately from the general population for a specific amount of time. Once that time has passed and they show no symptoms of COVID-19, they are moved into traditional housing where they have access to games, books and canteen, which allows them to order snacks and personal care items. Because it now takes longer for a new inmate to be moved into a traditional housing unit, Inmate Services staff provide newcomers with complimentary bags of snacks, basic hygiene products, radios, activity and puzzle pages, and paper and a pen. One inmate wrote a thank you note to our Inmate Services staff saying, “Receiving a gift with so many helpful items really lifted my spirits and helped get through my first hours and days.”
Efforts to keep inmates safe, healthy and engaged will remain a priority and ASO staff will continue to explore ways to deliver quality services and programs to those in our custody.