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Illinois Prisons Ban Visits Amid Coronavirus Fears, Inmates Not Being Tested For Virus

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The Illinois Department of Corrections announced Friday that visitors will be temporarily barred from the state’s correctional facilities in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Prison officials say they haven’t identified any positive cases of coronavirus among staff or incarcerated people. 

IDOC Spokesperson Lindsey Hess says there are more than 50 men quarantined for the flu at Menard Correctional Center in southern Illinois. But they’re not currently testing anyone for COVID-19. 

That’s because they can only test individuals who meet criteria set by the state’s public health department, Hess said in an email. Those criteria include: travel history or exposure to someone else with a confirmed case. People with symptoms requiring hospitalization can qualify only after flu and other illnesses are ruled out.

IDOC will provide inmates with funds for two 20-minute phone calls and a 15-minute video visit, according to a statement from the agency. Attorneys will still be able to visit their clients in state prisons, officials wrote. Prison officials did not say when the ban on visitations would be lifted.

A group of prison educators called upon Gov. J.B. Pritzker this week to release elderly and sick people from state prisons and jails to protect them from coronavirus. Pritkzer’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the issue.

COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving story, and we are working hard to bring you the most up-to-date information. We recommend checking the Coronavirus Information Center for the most recent numbers and guidance.

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Lee V. Gaines

Lee V. Gaines

Lee Gaines covers Education for the Illinois Newsroom. She started at Illinois Public Media in 2017 and her stories have been featured nationally on NPR. Prior to her work at IPM, Lee wrote for newspapers and magazines in Chicago and nationally. Her work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Reader, Chicago Magazine, and the Marshall Project. She also recently completed a fellowship with the Education Writers Association. ➤ lvgaines@illinois.edu@LeeVGaines

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