After over a year, Colorado prisons will allow in-person visits again — with lots of precautions


    A photograph of the sign outside the Sterling Correctional Facility in Logan County. (Sterling Journal-Advocate)

    It’s been over a year since thousands of incarcerated people in Colorado have seen their loved ones face to face.

    All state prisons halted in-person visitation in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which tore it’s way through correctional facilities across the state. The Colorado Department of Corrections announced on Wednesday that it will begin allowing in person visits at all but two of the state’s prisons — with lots of rules and regulations in place. 

    Seven of the 10 largest COVID-19 outbreaks in the state have occurred in prisons or jails. A total of 8,980 incarcerated people — or 66% of the state’s prison population — and 1,920 staff members have tested positive for the virus since the beginning of the pandemic and 29 inmates have died, according to the Colorado Department of Corrections COVID-19 dashboard. As of May 26, 18 staff members and four incarcerated people had active cases.

    Five correctional facilities — including Centennial, Four Mile, Fremont, Youthful Offender Services and Trinidad — will allow for 25% of their normal visitation capacity. The first facility to allow in-person visitation was at the Buena Vista Correctional Complex.

    Only two adult visitors will be allowed per person at these facilities. Incarcerated people and their loved ones will be allowed to embrace at the beginning and end of their visit.

    Visitors will be required to take a rapid COVID test, and inmates must be fully vaccinated before they are permitted to have visitors. Masks are still required within the facility. 

    Nearly 70% of all inmates have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to Annie Skinner, a spokesperson for CDOC. There are currently 13,580 people in prison spread out between 21 facilities.

    Approximately 55% of prison staff have received at least one dose of the vaccine, Skinner said. The department is currently offering a $500 bonus to staff members who get the vaccine through May 30.

    The remaining facilities — except the state’s two private prisons in Bent and Crowley counties — will allow two adult visitors as well as two minors 13 years of age or older per inmate. These facilities will allow for 50% of their visitation capacity.

    None of the state’s prisons are on lockdown, according to a CDOC spokesperson, but all are still on modified operations, meaning the number of staff members is reduced and movement is still limited.

    The CDOC pandemic visiting standards can be found online.