SPRINGFIELD – Within a month, Illinois prisons will be allowing in-person visitation again.
It’s been over a year since the Illinois Department of Corrections stopped visitation to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Department spokesperson Lindsey Hess said plans to restart visitation have been in the works for months. IDOC has been working with the Illinois Department of Public Health on the plan.
Hess said the state’s prison system has made video visitation work, but she said there’s no substitute for having the opportunity to visit in person.
“It’s incredibly important for incarcerated individuals’ emotional well being, their rehabilitation, and to maintain family bonds,” said Hess. “That’s why it was such a priority for us to resume visitation as quickly as possible and in the safest manner as possible.”
According to Hess, changes for the time being will include plexiglass barriers between visitors and incarcerated people, pre-scheduled visits to facilitate social distancing, and temperature and COVID-19 symptom checks.
“It’s going to look quite a bit different from the standard visitation that everyone is used to,” said Hess. “We do plan on easing restrictions, as long as it’s safe to do so.”
Hess said the department expects vaccinations in prisons to keep increasing in the coming weeks. She said 69% of the state’s prison population has been vaccinated so far.
She added that while the system is following CDC guidelines and not administering Johnson & Johnson vaccines until it’s safe to do so, that pause will not affect the rollout of visitation.
“Overall, it’s gone very well, especially considering that this is unprecedented, nothing that like we’ve ever seen before,” said Hess.
According to The Marshall Project, 88 prisoners in Illinois have died from COVID-19.
East Moline Correctional Center has already started allowing visitation. Other centers will follow three weeks after their population receive the second dose of the COVID vaccine. Current plans call for Pontiac Correctional Center and the Peoria Adult Transition Center to begin allowing visitation April 26.