November 26, 2020

Video visits rolling out at five California state prisons

Video visits rolling out at five California state prisons

Five California state prisons are rolling out video visitation programs as in-person visits remain suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The prisons — San Quentin State Prison, California Institution for Men, Mule Creek State Prison, Valley State Prison and Central California Women’s Facility — will start offering video visits Nov. 28, the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said in a news release. Each eligible inmate will receive a free 30-minute video visit every 30 days, the department said.

The video visits will take place on weekends and holidays. Visitors must make reservations and have the necessary equipment and internet access.

The corrections department hopes to expand video visits to all state prisons by the end of the year, Secretary Kathleen Allison said in a statement.

“Since families cannot connect in person yet, I want them to be able to connect in real-time, and see and talk to one another remotely until in-person visiting can safely reopen,” she said.

The move comes as coronavirus cases have been steadily rising at state prisons, mirroring a trend seen in the general population. There were 2,240 active cases among people incarcerated in state prisons as of Saturday, compared with a systemwide low of 283 active cases among inmates last month, according to the corrections department.

More than 18,000 cases have been reported among inmates in state prisons since the start of the coronavirus crisis, and 83 people have died, according to The Times’ tracker.

In-person visiting has been suspended at state prisons since March 11.