COVID-19 Updates: Visiting Suspension, VIC Restrictions, Staff Screenings, Face Coverings, Viral Containment Plans

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April 6, 2020

Dear Corrections Team:

As this unprecedented public health crisis continues to evolve, the Missouri Department of Corrections is evolving with it. In addition to the many steps already taken to try to prevent and contain the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus), we are implementing several operational changes designed to reduce risk and support the health and safety of staff and offenders.

  • Visiting suspension extended: The offender visiting suspension for adult institutions that went into effect March 12 will be extended for an additional month, through May 14. At that time, corrections and health administrators will reassess the state of our public health crisis and make determinations about the next steps. To help offenders stay in touch with family and friends, Securus is providing two free phone calls for each offender each week (effective March 23) and JPay is providing one additional free email stamp per offender each week (effective April 7).
  • Volunteer and reentry partner programs suspended: Volunteers in Corrections and community partners providing reentry services and other programming are restricted from entering our facilities until further notice.
  • Staff screenings enhanced with temperature checks: In addition to the verbal staff screening processes already in place at our facilities, we will begin checking the temperature of all staff, vendors and others seeking entry to any facility.
  • Face coverings and masks available: As announced in an April 3 message, MODOC is working to ensure we have ample personal masks (such as N95 or KN95 masks) for use by staff in the event that a COVID-19 outbreak occurs in a facility, and we’re working to provide face coverings (such as fabric shields resembling surgical masks) for use by staff during regular day-to-day activities. The department has procured a supply of personal masks for emergency use and has ordered more, and Missouri Vocational Enterprises has begun manufacturing face coverings, which the Department of Health and Senior Services has approved for use in conjunction with hand washing, physical distancing and other precautions. These face coverings are being distributed at adult institutions starting today, April 6, and will continue to be distributed to all sites this week. Details here »
  • Viral containment plans underway: Each adult institution has developed a plan to help contain the spread of COVID-19 if an outbreak occurs inside a prison. Because each facility is different, the plans may vary. However, the goal is the same: to reduce the number of people each offender and each staff member interacts with on a day-to-day basis. At this time, no one currently working or living inside a Missouri state prison has tested positive for COVID-19. However, limiting the scope of each person’s contact with others will help to contain an outbreak if one occurs. Containment plans include keeping residents of each housing unit separated from residents of other housing units; reducing group sizes; restricting movement by housing unit; and finding alternative options for education, religious services and other programming. This is a viral containment plan. This is NOT a lockdown. We do not plan to lock down any facility at this time.
  • Enhanced Care Units sheltering in place: Offenders who reside in enhanced care units may be at a higher risk of complications from COVID-19. For this reason, we plan to implement a shelter-in-place procedure for offenders in EUCs as well as their daily living assistants. The goal is to provide some of our vulnerable offenders with extra protection if an outbreak occurs.
  • Probation & Parole offices remain open to clients: Probation and Parole offices are closed to the public. However, they are open to clients who need to be seen by their probation and parole officers. To continue to help keep our communities safe, offenders’ supervision is considered an essential service. Officers also are continuing to supervise clients by way of community visits, phone contact, video visits and electronic monitoring.

We know this is a stressful time for everyone — especially you and your families. You are doing the heroic work of showing up on the front lines every day to keep the rest of the state safe. I cannot stress enough how much you are appreciated, not only by your fellow team members but also by your fellow citizens. Thank you. Stay healthy. Stay safe.

Anne L. Precythe