By early October, family and friends could be allowed to resume regular visits with inmates at the Lompoc Federal Correctional Complex.
However, visitors to the Bureau of Prisons facilities should expect some changes related to COVID-19 precautions, such as social distancing and facial coverings.
“The BOP recognizes the importance for inmates to maintain relationships with friends and family,” the agency stated in a written statement about the resumption of social visiting.
Meanwhile, visitation continues to be canceled at the Santa Barbara County Jail and state prisons, such as the California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo.
“We are not prepared to safely reopen visitation yet,” said Raquel Zick, a spokeswoman for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.
On Thursday, the county jail reported that nine more inmates had tested positive for COVID-19, with the facility having 42 active cases.
Federal prison leaders have planned for visiting to resume at all 122 facilities nationwide no later than Oct. 3 while incorporating recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to an online announcement.
Months ago, hundreds of Lompoc inmates tested positive for COVID-19, representing a large percentage for the FCI population.
A BOP spokesman did not reveal whether a specific date had been selected for Lompoc visitation to resume.
“In accordance with CDC guidelines, we are developing a comprehensive approach to reinstate in-person social visits at all of our facilities to begin by early October,” spokesman Justin Long said.
All visits would be noncontact, and social distancing between inmates and visitors would be enforced, either via the use of plexiglass, or similar barriers, or physical distancing, according to the BOP release.
The number of visitors allowed in the visiting room would be based on available space when utilizing social distancing.
BOP officials said the frequency and length of visits would be established to ensure that all inmates have an opportunity to visit at least twice a month.
Visitors must undergoing screening for symptoms, including temperature checks. Anyone who is sick or symptomatic will not be allowed to enter the site.
Both inmates and visitors must wear appropriate face coverings — with bandanas cited as one type prohibited.
Tables, chairs and other high-touch surfaces will be disinfected between visitation groups. Additionally, all areas, including lobbies, will be cleaned following the completion of visiting each day.
Inmates in quarantine or isolation will not participate in social visiting.
While social visits have been halted for months, the BOP boosted monthly free telephone minutes from 300 to 500 to help compensate for the suspension of visits.
“The BOP is committed to protecting the health and welfare of those individuals entrusted to our care, as well as our staff, their families, and the communities where we live and work. It is our highest priority to continue to do everything we can to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in our facilities; therefore, every CDC recommended precaution will be incorporated into our revised visiting procedures.
The agency said more information about each institution’s revised visiting procedures and schedule will be released online at bop.gov.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said all visiting at statewide prisons remains canceled until further notice.
“CDCR values visitation as an essential part of rehabilitation, but at this time, the department must make difficult decisions in order to protect the health and wellness of all who live in, work in and visit state prisons,” the agency said in a notice on its website.
— Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.