First, while SCIs remain closed to in-person visitors, some county jails have begun to allow no-contact visits again. They’ve heard from at least six jails that are doing this with certain restrictions to minimize the risk of coronavirus infection. They include Cumberland County Prison and Armstrong County Jail, which have remained free of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, and the jail in Bradford County, where the positivity rate for COVID-19 tests is currently less than 1%. They’re also hearing about more prisons making video visits available to incarcerated people, often at no charge. The jails in Erie, Washington, Butler, and Cumberland counties are among those offering this free virtual face-time for incarcerated people and their families. They’ve added a County Jail Visitation FAQ to the “Resource” section of their COVID-19 landing page so you can keep track of the latest in-person and virtual visiting policies at county jails. The Prison Society reached out to every county jail about this, and they’ll be sharing updates as they hear back from more of them. Meanwhile, the PA Department of Corrections recently rolled out a new website for scheduling virtual visits, and continues to offer free Zoom video visits with people incarcerated in SCIs. All Zoom calls scheduled for September 1st or later must be booked through this new website, which the DOC hopes will streamline the scheduling process. If you need help scheduling a Zoom visit, contact Customer Service Associate Naya Blu at email@example.com The Prison Society applauds Pennsylvania jails that are lending their effort, ingenuity, and compassion to devise ways for incarcerated people to connect safely with their families and loved ones on the outside. People across the state have spent months in lockdown conditions, often getting less than an hour a day outside their cells. The hope that even a virtual visit can inspire is sorely needed.
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