DOC quarantines state prison system to Fight COVID-19

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WTAJ) – The Department of Corrections Sec. John Wetzel announced a statewide quarantine in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Wetzel, inmates will be fed in their cells, and they will be afforded out-of-cell time for video visits, phone calls, access to the law library, as well as being provided with in-cell programming. All inmate movement will be controlled to conform to social distancing recommendations.

“Quarantining the entire system is in the best interest of our employees and our inmates,” Wetzel said. “This is essentially forced social distancing. We must take this step to contain the virus to one facility and to keep it from spreading throughout the system. I don’t want to wait until we have several cases in our system to act. We’re taking this proactive measure now.”

The DOC first announced a case of COVID-19 on March 29, for an inmate at the State Correctional Institution (SCI) at Phoenix, Montgomery County.

“We realize this is an inconvenience for staff and the inmates, but again, we are doing this to protect everyone’s wellbeing,” Wetzel said.

There are nearly 44,600 inmates in 25 state prisons.

This quarantine does not impact county prisons as they are not operated by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.

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