Bureau of Prisons resumes in-person visits as inmates, staff continue to die from COVID-19

The federal agency has faced scrutiny over its actions during the pandemic.

August 31, 2020, 10:34 PM

The Bureau of Prisons announced on Monday that in-person visits will resume at all 122 facilities within the bureau, according to an internal memo obtained by ABC News.

"Social visiting will resume no later than Saturday, October 3, 2020," the memo states, and visits will be non-contact only.

"Use of Plexiglas or a similar barrier between inmate and visitors will prevent any contact. In the alternative, if a barrier is not present, social distancing (i.e., 6 feet apart) between visitors and inmates must be enforced," the memo continues.

The bureau said visits will be adjusted so that every inmate has two visits a month. Inmates in isolation or quarantine will not be allowed visits.

Inmates and visitors must wear face coverings at all times when visiting with friends and family.

The move to allow visitation is part of the bureau's phase nine plan.

PHOTO: In this Aug. 26, 2020, file photo, the federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Ind.
In this Aug. 26, 2020, file photo, the federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Ind. The federal Bureau of Prisons will begin allowing inmates to have visitors again in October, months after visits were suspended at the 122 federal prisons across the U.S.
Michael Conroy/AP

Sources across the bureau previously expressed concern that if facilities started to resume normal activities without normal visitations, violence inside the prisons could increase.

The BOP has been under scrutiny for its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, so much so that Rep. Fred Keller, R-Pa., introduced a bill to require Senate confirmation for the BOP director.

There have been 118 inmate deaths inside the bureau, along with two staff member deaths. Over 11,000 inmates have contracted the novel coronavirus in BOP custody, as have more than 1,200 staff members.

Prisons across the country have been battling not only the COVID-19 pandemic, but a staffing crisis.

Union officials have long said that the BOP has a staffing issue, but the pandemic has further strained the system, they said.

At one facility outside Chicago, Illinois, 20 staff members came down with COVID-19, according to the facility's union president.

"Who is going to man the prison if everyone tests positive?" he asked.

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