Pennsylvania prison changes in effect due to emerging COVID-19 concerns

Regional News

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WTAJ) — Effective today, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) said there will be changes within state prisons in order to protect against COVID-19.

Secretary John Wetzel explained in a press release that incarcerated people will be assigned to housing units based on their vaccination status, and in-person visitation will be suspended until further notice for unvaccinated inmates.

However, there are alternative options for visits. There will be no-cost video visits and additional video terminals are to be installed in unvaccinated units.

Available time slots for in-person (vaccinated population only) and video visits may change during this transition period, the release said. Those who received a cancellation notice due to these changes may visit the DOC website.

The goal of these mitigation efforts, which went into effect Aug. 9, is to protect the unvaccinated group of people as information on the Delta variant emerges.

Access to services, such as education and programming, will not be impacted by the change in housing assignment.

“As we learn more about the highly contagious nature of the virus and its variants, it is critically important for the DOC to take proactive measures to keep our population safe,” Wetzel said. “Those who are vaccinated are protected by the vaccine, and we are working to protect those who choose not to be vaccinated by limiting contact with potential carriers of the virus.”

It’s reported that nearly 80 percent of the state prison population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The total number of active COVID-19 cases remains low with 47 active cases as of Aug. 3.

The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is available to any incarcerated individual who wants one, and universal indoor masking, cleaning and health screening protocols remain in effect at all institutions.

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