Gov. Abbott suspends in-person visitations at county, municipal jails

Travis County Jail - Correction Facility_402973

AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Friday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order suspending in-person visitations at all county and municipal jails in the state due to the susceptibility of jails to become COVID-19 hotspots.

BACKGROUND: Coronavirus spreading like wildfire in Texas prisons

While the order prohibits personal visitations, it does not apply to attorney’s meetings or meetings between an inmate and a religious official.

In his announcement, Abbott explained:

“Jails have shown to be highly susceptible to COVID-19 surges which is why we are focused on containing any potential hot spots and preventing spread both within jails and the community. I encourage jails to utilize virtual visitation strategies to allow for visitations in a way that protects both staff and the inmate population. The State of Texas is committed to keeping all Texans safe, protecting our most vulnerable populations, and mitigating the spread of COVID-19 throughout the Lone Star State.”

Back in April, KXAN reported that Texas jails saw a 340% increase in inmates testing positive for COVID-19 — in just two weeks, which translated to 626 inmates with active positive test results. On May 12, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice announced that all prison inmates in Texas would soon be tested.

These tests were self-administered cheek swabs and it’s estimated that it will take several weeks for the testing over every state prisoner to be complete.

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