Ky. prisons to again allow visitors beginning next week

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Kentucky News Connection) — Kentucky families soon will be able to visit loved ones in some prison facilities.

Gov. Andy Beshear said prison visitations and regular programs and activities may resume the week of June 20. The new policy applies only to prisons run by the departments of Corrections and Juvenile Justice.

Marcus Jackson, organizing coordinator for Smart Justice Advocates at the ACLU of Kentucky, said some county jails and federal prisons are choosing not to reopen to visitors. He noted that many families are in the dark about the online signup process for visits or haven’t received confirmations.

“And a lot of the family members are completely confused about how this is even going to occur,” he said. “People are having to take off work, and these people haven’t seen their loved ones in over a year.”

Vaccinated family and friends of people in state custody must schedule an appointment to visit before they arrive. Jackson said visitation dates and times for each facility are on the Department of Corrections and Department of Juvenile Justice websites.

Jackson said he believes the mental-health effects of the pandemic on people in prison could be felt for years. He explained that evidence-based rehabilitative programs – from educational classes to recreational activities – along with family visitation, are necessary for successful re-entry into life after incarceration.

“But when the pandemic hit in the mode that they went into, all of that ceased,” he said. “So, it stopped being about rehabilitation at that moment, and it was basically solitary confinement.”

He added that prison visitors must be vaccinated, wear a mask and practice social distancing, and two visitors are allowed for each individual. According to the Department of Corrections, 76% of the state’s prison population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.