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All Massachusetts Department of Correction facilities suspend visitation, begin testing all inmates

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MILFORD — As part of an effort to protect the health and safety of inmates, patients, and staff, the Massachusetts Department of Correction is taking steps to reduce the introduction, exposure, and transmission of COVID-19 at its facilities.

Beginning yesterday, the Department’s 16 facilities went into modified operations for a period of 14 days to allow the department to continue to provide a second round of universal COVID-19 testing for all inmates while also providing universal testing for staff. Inmates will still have access to medication distribution, sick calls, medical appointments, mental health contacts, showers, disinfecting of rooms, telephone use, and tier time, according to DOC.

General visitation will be temporarily suspended during this time; attorney visits and releases from custody will continue as scheduled. To promote and maintain connected relationships with families and loved ones while the pandemic necessarily limits visitation, the Department launched video visitation this summer and is in the process of expanding its video infrastructure to provide for virtual visitations at all facilities. The Department is also expanding inmate access to phone and email communication during this time.

The DOC’s strategies for COVID-19 have included identifying and utilizing quarantine areas, implementing pre-entry screening areas, enhancing cleaning and sanitizing practices, providing alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and distributing hundreds of thousands of masks, gloves, and other personal protective equipment to inmates, patients, and staff at all facilities. Mobile testing teams provided testing at all DOC facilities this summer, and day-to-day testing for symptomatic inmates and their close contacts has been conducted throughout the pandemic, along with strategic and targeted testing. Department policy continues to be guided by the latest guidance from state and federal public health agencies.

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