Texas Department of Criminal Justice Resumes In-person Visitation
Beginning Monday, March 15, 2021, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice will resume in-person visitation at all units statewide. Visitors on official visitation lists may begin registering for Face 2 Face in-person visitation times starting Wednesday, March 10, 2021, at 8:00 a.m. by calling the unit of assignment of the inmate they would like to visit. In coming days, the call-in scheduling system will be replaced by an on-line visit booking system.
Visits will be different than in the past. Initially, eligible inmates will be allowed two in-person visits per month. To allow for social distancing, visits will consist of one adult visitor. Visits will be one hour in length. Video visits will not count against the number of in-person visits each month.
Visits will need to be scheduled in advance, but visitation times will be expanded to Monday, Wednesday, Friday from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Families will be encouraged to call the day before the visit to verify if the visit is still scheduled and to arrive at least one hour in advance of their scheduled visit time. Inmates on medical isolation or restriction are prohibited from in-person visitation. No contact will be allowed during visits. Barriers will be in place. No items can be exchanged. The entire visit seating area and phones will be sanitized routinely with a 10% bleach solution or vital oxide.
Prior to entry into the facility, visitors will be required to complete a 15-minute rapid COVID-19 test conducted by the agency. They will remain in their vehicles until the test is complete and individuals testing negative will be allowed to proceed into the facility. Visitors must wear appropriate face covering as they approach the highway gate check point. Should they not have one, a mask will be provided. Hand sanitizer will also be available to visitors. Staff assigned to visitation areas will be required to wear N95 masks and gloves. Sanitation stations will be available in visitation areas.
On March 13, 2020, the TDCJ suspended visitation after a disaster declaration was issued by Governor Greg Abbott. The decision, while difficult, was necessary to limit the introduction of COVID-19 into correctional facilities. Through an aggressive testing campaign and strong mitigation efforts, the agency has seen a significant reduction of coronavirus cases in the inmate population and is prepared to begin allowing limited visitation.
Understanding the importance of communication with loved ones, the agency expanded access to the offender telephone system, introduced video visitation which will remain, and implemented other creative opportunities to keep incarcerated individuals and their families connected during the pandemic. The TDCJ believes it can safely resume limited face-to-face visits and access to volunteers with appropriate safety measures in place.