The Alaska Department of Corrections is easing visiting restrictions, allowing attorneys to visit fully vaccinated clients in person with some mitigation strategies in place, a DOC spokesperson said.
The desire to return to in-person visits has been expressed by many attorneys, said DOC spokesperson Sarah Gallagher, as communication in the interim has all been by phone or video.
“Once more inmates become fully vaccinated (as defined by the CDC) and are eligible for in-person attorney-client visitation, we anticipate many attorneys taking advantage of this opportunity,” Gallagher said in an email. “They have expressed an eagerness to return to meeting with their clients face-to-face and we appreciate their patience as the Department worked to ensure this process could be done safely.”
About 50% of the DOC’s current inmates have received at least the first dose of a vaccine, Gallagher said. Complete courses of vaccination plus two weeks is one of the requirements an inmate must fulfill for attorneys to be allowed in to see them.
“DOC followed the vaccination rollout plan laid out by the Department of Health and Social Services. Correctional officers and DOC medical staff were given priority in receiving the COVID-19 vaccine,” Gallagher said in an email. “Those employees who worked in one of our infirmaries (long-term care facility) qualified under Phase 1A, Tier 1. All of our staff and inmates (people living or working in a congregate setting) became eligible in Phase 1b, Tier 2 – though many of our staff members were able to access the vaccine in their communities very early on.”
Other regulations include mandatory temperature screenings for visiting attorneys, mandatory mask-wearing inside the facility and appointments for all visits, Gallagher said in a news release. Plexiglass dividers and a firm no-contact rule will also be in place.
The move comes as the DOC eyes opening visitation to more people as vaccination percentages climb, Gallagher said.
“We are pleased to, once again, make available in person attorney access to their clients,” said DOC commissioner Nancy Dahlstrom in the news release. “We look forward to expanding the opportunity for visitation to loved ones in the near future.”
Reopening facilities to family and acquaintances of fully vaccinated inmates will be contingent on community and facility levels, according to the DOC’s most recent outbreak response plan.
“We recognize how important it is for inmates to be able to connect with not only their attorneys but also friends and family,” Dahlstrom said. “Our reopening plan gradually restores outside access to institutions as well as internal activities such as education and rehabilitation programs, chaplaincy services, and slowly expands social bubbles to allow for mixed recreation and meals among inmates.”
The facilities will remain closed to the general public for now, Gallagher said.
Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or email@example.com.