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Florida prison visitation ban extended through mid-September

FILE - Baker Correctional Institution
FILE - Baker Correctional Institution (WJXT)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – As the numbers of COVID-19 deaths and infections among inmates and workers continue to increase, state corrections officials on Tuesday extended a ban on prison visitations through Sept. 14.

“I want to extend my gratitude to the thousands of families who have recognized the importance of protecting our inmate population by suspending visitations. I look forward to the time we can safely welcome them back to visit their loved ones in prison,” Department of Corrections Secretary Mark Inch said in a prepared statement Tuesday.

The department first imposed the visitation ban in March to try to prevent the coronavirus from spreading throughout the state prison system, which houses roughly 87,000 inmates.

Prisoners have continued to have access to their families through mail, phone calls and video consultations, often for a fee.

Inch said he hopes visitations “will resume very soon,” adding that the state agency is developing plans on how to “conduct visitations in the safest way possible.”

While visitations have stopped, the virus has continued to spread within prisons. As of mid-Tuesday, 15,049 inmates and 2,306 corrections workers had tested positive for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus.

Corrections officials reported Tuesday that 75 prisoners have died from complications of COVID-19.

Also on Tuesday, corrections officials reduced the number of prisoner deaths by one, saying they inaccurately attributed an inmate death to COVID-19 last week.