Nevada prisons suspend visitation

Nevada prisons suspend visitation
Pershing County, where Lovelock Correctional Facility is located, saw its population adjusted down by 9.7% after inmates were reallocated to count as residents of where they lived before incarceration. (Nevada Department of Corrections photo)

by Michael Lyle, Nevada Current

CARSON CITY–The Nevada Department of Corrections announced Monday it has suspended visitation statewide following hundreds of positive Covid cases among corrections staff and those incarcerated. 

So far in January, 210 staff and 209 inmates tested positive for the virus. 

Following the first cases of Covid in Nevada, the department of corrections halted all in person visits in March 2020, which weren’t resumed until May 2021. 

Even though the department didn’t allow visits, prisons saw a drastic spike in Covid cases from late October 2020 through January. Civil rights and prisoner advocacy groups have argued that lax policies among corrections staff led to outbreaks. 

Following several positive cases among staff and inmates in August 2021, visitations were temporarily suspended at Ely State Prison.

Groups, once again, pointed toward low vaccination rates among employees as the reason behind Covid cases rather than non-contact visits. Prior to coming into the building for visitation, people are tested for Covid and are required to wear masks the entire time. 

At the April and July Board of Prison Commissioners meetings, Gov. Steve Sisolak chastised officials for low numbers. In July, Sisolak called the 41% vaccination rate among staff “atrocious and not acceptable.” 

The Department of Corrections noted in a release Monday that 1,771 of 2,305 employees, or about 77%, are fully vaccinated. Of the 10,001 inmates, it reported 6,767 are vaccinated. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends an additional booster shot to protect against Covid five months after completing the Covid vaccination series. The recommendation comes as the latest omicron variant surges through the population.

Teri Vance, a spokeswoman for the department, said boosters are available and distribution had begun. As of Monday, 646 inmates had received a booster.

Nevada Current is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Nevada Current maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Hugh Jackson for questions: Follow Nevada Current on Facebook and Twitter.