Pa. state prisons to halt in-person visitation through February

People walk on a tour of the West section of the State Correctional Institution at Phoenix in Collegeville, Pa

In this June 1, 2018, file photo, people walk on a tour of the West section of the State Correctional Institution at Phoenix in Collegeville, Pa. (Jacqueline Larma/AP)

Pennsylvania’s state prisons announced Monday they will not allow in-person visits for the coming month because their staff has been thinned by coronavirus infection.

In-person visits will be stopped at all state correctional institutions, starting on Thursday and lasting until Feb. 28. Free video visits will be expanded and cable TV in prisoners’ cells will be free in February.

Acting Corrections Secretary George Little said quarantine requirements have increasingly required voluntary and mandatory overtime he considers unsustainable.

The prison system implemented a statewide quarantine in March 2020, and in-person visits began to resume in May 2021.

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The Corrections Department said recreational, educational and programming opportunities won’t be affected by the visitation policy but could be modified at individual prisons.

There have been more than 14,000 prisoner COVID-19 cases and 155 deaths within the system that now houses about 36,000 prisoners. About 90% of prisoners are fully vaccinated.

Among state prison staff, barely half are fully vaccinated.

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