AUSTIN, Texas — On Friday, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order suspending in-person visits to all county and municipal jails across Texas to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
The governor said the restriction does not apply to visitations from an attorney meeting with a client or from religious leaders or members of the clergy.
Friday’s order comes on top of the governor’s previous directive as part of his COVID-19 disaster declaration to restrict visitation at state prisons, jails and juvenile justice facilities.
According to the governor, this order will add “another layer of defense to contain COVID-19 hot spots, prevent community spread and protect staff and inmates.”
"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," said Abbott. "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."
Earlier this month, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) expanded COVID-19 testing in Texas prisons.
The announcement of the expanded testing was substantial, as the KVUE Defenders found that, as of May 2, only about 1% of the prison population in Texas had been tested for COVID-19 – and of those tests, about 59% came back positive.
As of Monday, May 11, 2,351 TDCJ offenders and employees have tested positive for the virus. TDCJ reports 30 prisoners and seven prison workers have presumably died from COVID-19. As of May 4, the TDCJ had made COVID-19 testing optional for employees.
On May 1, the KVUE Defenders reported a 38,000% increase in Texas prisoners with coronavirus for the month of April.
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