Prison visits in Alabama to restart after almost two-year pause

The Alabama Department of Corrections said Tuesday that prison visits will restart after a 20-month pause due to the spread of the coronavirus. 

Prisoners have been allowed to use phones to call or message family, but they have not been allowed to physically see relatives since March 2020, when the coronavirus began to ravage the United States. 

The new statewide guidance, effective Dec. 4, says prisoners can have up to two visitors for one hour.

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The prisoners and visitors will not be allowed to have physical contact, eat or drink, and they have to stay behind a plexiglass barrier. 

Individual prisons have the discretion to suspend in-person visitation again based on the number of COVID-19 cases among inmates, prison staff and the community. 

As COVID-19 still poses a significant risk in a correctional environment, several safety protocols and restrictions will be in place and must be adhered to as we expand these activities statewide,” the department said in a statement. 

The change in protocol comes after a successful pilot program at three prisons in October. 

Along with the new visitation rules, restrictions have been lifted on the number of volunteers allowed in the prisons from different organizations.

The news comes after prisons have been hit hard by COVID-19. Shared spaces and close quarters made prisons a perfect breeding ground for the virus.

Some states allowed certain groups of inmates to serve out the rest of their prison sentences from home amid the pandemic.