COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
- Incarcerated Population Reduction Efforts
- Informational Calls for Friends & Family
- Ombuds' Top Questions
- On-Site Contractors & Volunteers
- Sanitizing & Cleaning
- Screening & Testing
- Social Distancing
- Work/Training Release
1. Has the Department of Corrections (DOC) reduced the number of inter-facility transfers?
Yes. The DOC has greatly reduced the number of inter-facility transfers that are being conducted agency-wide. Since March of 2020, the department has reduced the number of inter-facility transfers by nearly 75%.
2. Is the commissary still open for purchases?
The commissary is still open and functional.
3. Are all Washington State correctional facilities in direct communication with local health care centers and hospitals?
4. What form needs to be completed by an incarcerated individual for loved ones to receive health information regarding their incarcerated loved one?
Prior to the release of health information for an individual, DOC 13-035 Authorization for Disclosure of Health Information needs to be completed and signed by the incarcerated individual. The form can be completed at any time and will then be maintained in the individual’s file for reference, if a loved one contacts the facility inquiring about health information. It is important to note that the authorization form will expire six months from the date the incarcerated individual has signed the form unless the incarcerated individual fills in a “date, event or condition” on the form in the appropriate blank. The form is available by request within the living units as well as in a facility’s health services/infirmary area.
Incarcerated Population Reduction Efforts
1. Is Department of Corrections (DOC) considering compassionate release?
The Governor’s emergency proclamation and commutation order authorized the release of individuals who meet specific criteria. For individuals currently in total confinement, eligibility for consideration requires no violent offense or sex offense (as defined under RCW 9.94A.030) and a release date on or before October 13, 2020 (within 180 days of the Governor’s order).
To determine whether someone qualifies as non-violent, the Department considers the individual’s offense history for the current period of DOC jurisdiction (the period during which the individual has continuously been under DOC jurisdiction, either in confinement or on supervision).
2. How many individuals were released or transferred? Who was released or transferred?
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and need to provide more physical distancing within the state's correctional facilities, the Department implemented a limited transfer of 950 minimum custody and work release incarcerated individuals to their communities. The documents linked to in the following list contain the names of individuals transferred to the community.
- Commutation List (Updated 5/4/2020)
- Rapid Reentry List (Updated 5/15/2020)
- Work Release Furlough List (Updated 5/7/2020)
3. Who do I contact if I have questions about an individual who was released?
Questions concerning a specific individual should be directed to the facility where the individual is housed. Facility staff will provide information that is appropriate and authorized by policy.
Provided information will not include specific reasons why an individual may have been removed from a list. Thank you for your understanding.
Informational Calls for Friends & Family
1. What are these calls and how did they begin?
Each Washington State correctional facility has a local family council (LFC), which is comprised of family members who have an individual incarcerated at the facility, and department employees. These LFCs have working relationships that were in existence prior to COVID-19. The decision was made to invite LFC members to attend a regularly scheduled informational call with facility management to receive firsthand information from those who are in the facility working through the COVID-19 pandemic response. These calls then adopted the name “Local Family Council COVID-19 Informational Calls.” Since that time, headquarters staff and local facility staff have encouraged all individuals who are approved visitors with an incarcerated individual at that respective facility to attend these regularly scheduled calls.
Facilities have been instructed by headquarters to ensure all participating individuals are approved visitors in good standing to ensure the calls remain manageable and informational for those who attend. For those asking to join the LFC COVID-19 informational call, once they go through the process of verification, they are added to the previously maintained LFC distribution list so the facility can better facilitate those individuals wishing to attend these calls. The facility-specific LFC distribution list is used for feasibility and contact purposes. Also, for anyone interested in the most current information regarding specific facilities, such as confirmed cases for incarcerated individuals and staff or associated memorandums, the information is available on the agency’s COVID-19 webpage.
The COVID-19 informational calls are not regulated by family council policy, though it may be referenced for guidance in the maintenance of these calls. Individuals do not have to participate in the LFC regularly scheduled meetings that take place per family council policy. The informational calls do not represent an amendment to the family council policy. The department felt it necessary and appropriate to inform families regarding ongoing updates to facility operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, and due to the already good working relationship with the pre-established local family councils, the department decided this was the best venue to provide COVID information since early in the pandemic.
2. What is the required frequency of these calls?
These calls are required to occur weekly when a facility is in “outbreak status.”
For facilities not in outbreak status, calls may occur on a bi-weekly schedule and in consultation with local family council input.
Calls will be a maximum of one hour in length.
3. Who is invited to attend these calls?
Attendees can be any friend or family member who is an approved visitor of an incarcerated individual of that respective facility, and in good standing.
Each facility is responsible for putting a process in place to provide a method for families to inquire, and once their visitation status is verified as being in good standing with the facility, be invited to attend the informational calls and added to the email distribution list.
Facility management, local family council co-chair and secretary for the facility and additional departmental staff also attend as they have availability.
Office of Corrections Ombuds staff are invited to attend these calls.
Call-in information should not be shared with anyone who does not receive the calendar invite unless there is approval from the facility management.
4. What are the requirements of those in attendance of these calls?
These calls are a collaborative effort between families and agency staff. To be the most productive, all participants on the call will demonstrate integrity, honesty, good judgment, cooperation, professionalism, respect and courtesy. Two agency values that assist in productive communication include respectful and inclusive interactions and positivity in words and actions. All participants will follow the pre-established call expectations provided by the facility.
Facilities have the option to conduct the calls in the manner that works best for their staff such as answering pre-submitted questions followed by hosting additional questions and answers, if time allows. Other examples include one question per person at a time, announcing your name prior to asking your question for notes purposes, identifying your name to the contact/call-in information showing to confirm individuals are in fact approved to be in attendance, etc.
Facilities may require questions be submitted by a specific deadline prior to the call to allow the staff time to provide the most thorough and accurate answers.
Questions must be related to the COVID-19 response at that respective facility. All other questions will be submitted to the Correspondence Unit for assignment, per the normal agency process. If a question is regarding correctional records and unable to be answered by the agency’s Correspondence Unit, the individual may be advised of the public records request process to obtain such information.
5. Are there minutes from these calls?
All Washington State correctional facilities are required to take notes from each of their calls and send them to their attendees and to the agency’s webmaster for posting on the local family council webpage each week. These are not LFC meeting minutes; the informational calls are not official meetings. Due to limited resources there may be a delay in the posting of these notes. However, each facility will post them as soon as is feasible, and when possible, prior to the next scheduled phone call.
Ombuds' Top Questions
The following are questions received by the Office of Corrections Ombuds (OCO) and provided to the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) for response.
1. Can the Department of Corrections (DOC) explain what guidelines it is following for quarantine and isolation? Does the Department follow Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines?
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) currently recommends a 10-day isolation and 10-day quarantine for residents, regardless of vaccination and booster status in their updated guidance. Department of Corrections (DOC) works in collaboration with Washington State Department of Health (DOH) to regularly update quarantine and isolation protocols. Currently, corrections uses the 10-day guidance for most individuals in isolation and quarantine. However, unvaccinated individuals continue to isolate for 14 days, due to the concern for longer periods of being infectious. A rapid test is being done at the end of isolation to help guide clearance and evaluate the timeframes selected. The guidance changes frequently, and the department is constantly adapting.
2. What is the status of the Department of Corrections (DOC) consideration of allowing Incarcerated Individuals to receive credit of some nature for time spent in quarantine or isolation such as restoration of good conduct time?
Unfortunately, corrections is not able to grant restoration of earned time. Earned time is strictly dictated by RCW, WAC, and department policy. It is not within the Secretary’s powers to award earned time to individuals for circumstances outside of the confines of RCW 9.94A.729, RCW 72.09.130, WAC 137.30, DOC 350.100. Department of Corrections (DOC) continues to talk with incarcerated individuals, the Statewide Family Council and others to identify ways to make the long periods of restricted movement less difficult.
3. What is Department of Corrections (DOC) current policy and procedure for staff and incarcerated individual testing? How will the Department ensure the incarcerated individuals are promptly provided the results of their tests?
We have specific criteria outlined for testing of all staff and incarcerated individuals. Also, we may test more frequently based on number of positive results and type of setting. Our headquarters medical staff are in daily communication with each facility to strategize and approach the care for the health and safety of those in our custody.
All testing of incarcerated individuals is directed by departments COVID-19 Screening, Testing, and Infection Control Guidelines (R 3/2022), currently on version 31, for the following situations:
- When an incarcerated individual is experiencing symptoms of COVID.
- When there has been close contact with confirmed COVID cases.
- When there are confirmed COVID cases in living units and work areas among other incarcerated individuals or staff.
- Prior to transfer between corrections facilities or units.
- Prior to routine medical procedures when required by the provider.
Department of Corrections (DOC) sends all Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing out to Washington State Department of Health (DOH) contracted laboratories across the state. Department of Corrections (DOC) health services shares test results with individuals as soon as possible after receiving them. When the department has to test an entire unit or facility, sometimes individual test results for those testing negative are delayed so that the department can address positive test results in a timely way.
All testing and screening of staff members is directed by Department of Correction's Safe Start Plan, currently on version 6. The detailed screening process is also outlined in the Safe Start Plan. Staff who work in prisons are serial tested by Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test once weekly as part of routine prison operations.
Staff may also be rapid antigen tested for the following reasons:
- Returning to work after a medical isolation period of 10 days
- Returning to work after close contact
- If they are a staff member who is traveling to a facility who does not participate in weekly serial testing
- Returning to work after traveling out of state on public transportation
- Response testing during facility outbreaks and/or clusters
4. What is the Department of Corrections (DOC) plan for addressing the food issues at the facilities? What is the Department plan for ensuring there is not an excessive wait for food and that hot meals are not cold when provided?
Department of Corrections (DOC) continues to experience shortages such as Correctional Industries (CI) food workers, department staff and vendor issues that can impact timing and quality of food service. Here are some of the steps we are taking to address food in our facilities.
- Most food service operations will be purchasing additional durable compartment trays and thermal carriers to better support mealtimes in these areas.
- Corrections has diverted staff from non-essential operations and provided additional department staff resources to ensure food delivery continues.
- Food Service Administration is working with National Food Vendors on a daily basis to procure alternative ‘ease-of-use’ food items to assist the meal plans developed/directed by the local incident command teams.
- Measures have been taken at locations that have experienced long wait times and cooled food to prevent those circumstances from happening again.
- At all locations, food services teams are working diligently to ensure all daily nutritional needs are met
5. What is Department of Corrections (DOC) doing to ensure non-COVID medical services are being provided and ensuring medical appointments are being scheduled?
There is a shortage of health care resources across the state. That impacts the care that can be provided in the community to all Washington State citizens. The shortage in health care staff also impacts non-emergent care in the corrections facilities. Some elective and non-urgent medical care may be deferred while facilities are in outbreak status. This is necessary to ensure that health services resources are available to respond to COVID-19. In those cases where care is deferred, urgent and emergent medical care remain available to patients with non-COVID related problems.
1. How is Department of Corrections (DOC) deciding when to move people who have a positive COVID test or are exposed? Why not allow people to quarantine or isolate in place in their current housing units? Will DOC ever consider this as an option?
There are several complex factors that go into the decision of when to move people who test positive into isolation and those who are exposed to COVID-19 and are in need of quarantine. First, the department makes no decisions about moving individuals without consulting with the Washington State Department of Health (DOH). Our health services team works closely with the DOH to make moves in a way that reduces the risk of spreading the virus.
Only individuals with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 are placed in isolation as a cohort. Those who are suspected or exposed with close contact to the virus are placed in quarantine. To the extent possible, we try to make sure an individual can stay within their current housing unit when required to quarantine or isolate. Despite our best efforts, there are reasons why this may not be possible, including:
- The design of the living area including air handling systems, and individual room structure (i.e. bars on the living quarters vs. a closed room design).
- When choosing a space to cohort groups of people with confirmed COVID-19 or those on quarantine, we use a well-ventilated room with solid walls and a solid door that closes fully to the extent possible
- The building location (i.e. close proximity to medical services).
- The number of people requiring quarantine/isolation and available space within their existing location
- The custody level of those requiring quarantine/isolation and available options
- Special needs of those incarcerated
In summary, individuals who test positive for COVID-19 are temporarily moved to medical isolation areas that are separated from quarantined areas. Most quarantined individuals are able to stay in their usual living unit. It is when individuals are at a higher risk for becoming positive that they are then moved to single cell quarantine areas. For example, if an individual has a cell mate who tests positive for COVID-19, they are then moved to quarantine in a single cell area. This protects individuals in the living unit who are not positive for COVID-19 and better allows clinical teams to monitor positive individuals.
Health services clinical teams made up of the facilities medical staff and medical staff at headquarters meet regularly to discuss each facility’s unique situation and makes the best clinical decisions for a patient. Corrections regularly updates its COVID-19 Screening, Testing, and Infection Control Guidelines based on Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Washington State Department of Health (DOH) guidance when making housing decisions for patients.
Posted 1/25/2022, Revised 2/1/2022
2. What is Department of Corrections (DOC) doing to ensure each facility has a procedure to keep individuals’ property safe and secure if they do have to transfer to a different unit for isolation or quarantine?
In response to the pandemic, corrections developed the Prisons Division COVID-19 Outbreak & Cluster Checklist in order to standardize processes across all its facilities. Each corrections prison facility is required to follow the checklist which includes a specific process for handling property during a COVID-related unit move. Incarcerated Individuals pack up the property to take with them, such as the JPAY player, hygiene items, reading material, religious items, etc. Some facilities may not be able to accommodate every item a person owns, due to restricted space. In these cases, the person’s property is securely stored until it can be safely returned to them.
The Department makes every effort to adhere to the property check list and even with this, there are sometimes instances of lost or damaged personal property. The agency is consistently working to improve property management processes with each outbreak.
Posted 1/25/2022, Revised 2/1/2022
3. Why is Department of Corrections (DOC) not following Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines on quarantine and isolation?
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) currently recommends a 10-day isolation and 10-day quarantine for residents, regardless of vaccination and booster status in their updated guidance. Corrections works in collaboration with Washington State Department of Health (DOH) to regularly update quarantine and isolation protocols. Currently, Corrections uses the 10-day guidance for most individuals in isolation and quarantine. However, unvaccinated individuals continue to isolate for 14 days, due to the concern for longer periods of being infectious. A rapid test is being done at the end of isolation to help guide clearance and evaluate the timeframes selected. The guidance changes frequently, and department is constantly adapting
Posted 1/25/2022, Revised 2/1/2022
4. Will Department of Corrections (DOC) use the Incarcerated Individual Betterment Fund (IIBF) to provide items to individuals who do have to be moved to isolate or quarantine such as food, funds and additional contact with family, pay for cable for one month, one-month free weight card, etc.? Will DOC consider other options for incarcerated individuals who must undergo excessive isolation or quarantine such as with a restoration pathway for good conduct time?
Yes, we have been using the Incarcerated Individual Betterment Fund (IIBF) to do a variety of things for incarcerated individuals to help the time pass more smoothly. Additionally, a message was sent to incarcerated individuals and family members on January 28, 2022 that invites ongoing input from families and incarcerated individuals the opportunity to offer up suggestions for future expenditures form the IIBF.
Additionally, our facility community partnership program coordinators are gathering feedback from the incarcerated population through tier representatives and liaisons to add their perspective for IIBF purchase ideas and we have a team of people dedicated to considering comfort items that may reduce the impact of changes and restrictions
Posted 1/25/2022, Revised 2/1/2022
5. What is Department of Corrections' (DOC) plan to ensure staff are following proper protocols with personal protective equipment (PPE)? How will DOC ensure there is parity in how the protocols are enforced for staff and incarcerated individuals so that incarcerated individuals are not held to a higher standard than staff?
Each corrections facility has been allocated an additional COVID-19 safety and compliance manager that reports directly to the superintendent. The sole purpose of this position is to monitor and observe staff daily for masking and social distance compliance and reviewing and updating cleaning protocols. The compliance office has the authority to issue corrective action to staff when necessary. This process ensures that staff are compliant for the COVID-19 protocols they are responsible for following. In addition to these actions, Department executive management sends out frequent memos that always include reminders of the importance of non-pharmaceutical interventions including social distancing and mask compliance.
Posted 1/25/2022, Revised 2/1/2022
Sanitizing & Cleaning
1. What cleaning protocols are being used to clean the facilities?
All DOC locations instituted an intensive cleaning protocol focusing on sanitizing high touch surfaces, increased personal hygiene, and posting of DOH COVID-19 and hygiene related materials in public areas and areas visible to the incarcerated population. Hand sanitizer was authorized in prison facilities for use by employees and contract staff, and are placed in areas where soap and water are not readily available. Incarcerated individuals have access to hand sanitizer in supervised locations. We are also providing free access to sanitation products for individuals inside prisons.
2. What is the plan to sanitize telephone headsets?
Facilities are using the resources available to them for advanced cleaning. Some use disinfecting wipes, some use disinfectant solutions and paper towels. Phone handsets are disinfected between each use.
Screening & Testing
1. Are staff and incarcerated individuals being screened when they come to a Department of Corrections (DOC) location?
Corrections has implemented enhanced screening protocols for all employees, contract staff, incarcerated individuals and others entering DOC facilities and field offices consistent with recommendations from the Department of Health (DOH) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
2. What happens when staff are screened out from entering a Department of Corrections (DOC) location?
If staff have a fever equal to or greater than 100.4 or experienced a cough within the last 14 days, they will not be allowed into the DOC location and will be referred to a medical professional to determine if they meet the criteria for testing.
3. How is the Department of Corrections (DOC) managing the situation when there are staff with positive results?
DOC has protocols in place that follow recommendations for quarantines set forth by the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) and the CDC. Employees who test positive for COVID-19 are asked to self-quarantine at home for 14 days.
Corrections also works to identify and notify employees considered to have had close contact with a staff member with positive COVID-19 test results will be asked to self-quarantine at home for up to 14 days (from date of last contact with the employee who tested positive), following DOH guidelines.
Additionally, in DOC work locations with positive results, the Department has thoroughly cleaned and disinfected the areas. All employees believed to have been in close contact are self-quarantining at home. The Department continues to take steps to increase the number of employees who are teleworking. DOC asks that employees and others practice compassion and respect for the privacy of employees who are sick, as well as others who may be self-quarantined.
4. What is the Department of Corrections' (DOC) protocol for testing, isolating and quarantining incarcerated individuals?
Per DOC Health Services guidance, incarcerated individuals who show symptoms will be directed to don a surgical mask to immediately prevent potential spread of a virus and placed in isolation. Their cellmates will be immediately quarantined until they can be evaluated by a medical provider. DOC nursing staff will perform initial screening assessments then notify a health care practitioner for further assessment and testing as needed.
Any patients with laboratory confirmed COVID-19, or who were not tested, but are suspicious for COVID-19, will remain in isolation until they have been symptom-free for 14 days. Patients who test negative for COVID-19 will remain in isolation until they have been symptom-free for 14 days, unless they have a documented or confirmed alternative diagnosis that explains their symptoms, such as a positive influenza test. Individuals who have no symptoms yet have potentially been exposed to those who tested positive for COVID-19 will be quarantined for 14 days or until symptoms develop.
5. How is the Department of Corrections (DOC) managing the situation when there are incarcerated individuals with positive results?
If an incarcerated individual does test positive, they will be isolated and treated and those who have been in close contact will be quarantined.
6. Are correctional facilities identifying at risk people in quarantined units?
Yes, DOC is establishing additional precautions for those in units with a vulnerable population and our infirmaries. DOC Health Services established these precautions based on recommendations set forth by the Washington State Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control.
7. Is the Department of Corrections (DOC) providing doctors’ visits and COVID-19 screenings for the incarcerated population?
Incarcerated individuals who experience symptoms are encouraged to report them to health services staff immediately. When a health care practitioner determines there is a need, co-pays are waived for testing patients.
8. What happens if an individual at a work release facility tests positive for COVID-19?
DOC has an overall agency plan for emerging pandemics. The Department also has individualized location-specific pandemic plans for each correctional facility, work release facility and field office within each section.
9. If COVID-19 spreads through the Department of Corrections (DOC), what contingency plans are in place to ensure things keep running?
DOC has prepared continuity of operations plans (COOP) for maintaining critical functions of the department. The Department has opened the Department’s Emergency Response Center and deployed its Incident Response Team. Individual facilities have opened their as well. Ensuring continuity of operations, safety of our staff, our incarcerated, and the public and the response to COVID-19 are our top priorities at this time. In addition, our response is supported by the Governor’s Office, the state Emergency Management Department, the Department of Health, several other state agencies, and federal resources.
10. Will transfers of incarcerated/detained persons to and from other jurisdictions and facilities be restricted?
Transfers will be restricted unless necessary for medical evaluation, medical isolation/quarantine, clinical care, extenuating security concerns, or to prevent overcrowding.
11. Who within the correctional facilities is tested and isolated for influenza-like illness/COVID-19?
Testing and isolation should generally be ordered for any patient with new onset respiratory symptoms (for example dyspnea, cough, pharyngitis) OR fever.
12. How will families be notified if their loved one becomes sick?
DOC will be following the same protocols as any other health concern and due to federal regulations cannot provide notifications specific to an individual’s health status without a signed release. Persons who become ill will still have access to telecommunications to be able to provide their own notification.
1. Has the Department of Corrections (DOC) implemented social distancing practices?
Yes, DOC has implemented social distancing and is encouraging 6 feet of distance between people when able to do so. It is a priority to make social distancing the practice.
2. In what way(s) will the Department of Corrections (DOC) work to achieve social distancing?
- Staggering movement as much as needed, and explaining to the population the effects of keeping distance from others.
- Incident Command Centers will evaluate current movement practices and develop/redesign movement schedules/practices to accommodate identified operational changes.
3. What are some of the social distancing steps being taken within the correctional facilities and work release?
- Discourage physical touch/handshakes.
- Encourage staff to model social distancing practices.
- Frequent management walkabouts to help ensure incarcerated individuals and employees are practicing social distancing.
- All staff are encouraged to give on-site praise for desired behaviors and corrections for non-desired behaviors.
- Increase communication with tier representatives as ongoing reminders for social distancing.
- Management staff meet with tier representatives at least daily to hear concerns and clarify existing directions.
4. Are incarcerated individual work crews still in operation in facilities?
- For crews within institutions, work crew sizes have been limited to no more than 10 individuals. Depending on size of work area, crews may exceed 10 if social distancing (6 foot rule) can be managed.
- Symptomatic incarcerated workers are not allowed to go to work.
- Handwashing and sanitizing are being increased while at work.
- Hygiene and sanitation education are being increased for all workers.
5. Are incarcerated individual work crews still in operation outside of facilities?
No, with the following exceptions:
- DNR crews with no community interaction are going into the forests for planting.
- Cedar Creek Corrections Center is approved to send crews to McNeil Island for operations on the island, and to the Correctional Industries headquarters.
1. Where can DOC employees receive the COVID-19 vaccine?
DOC employees may receive vaccination in the community. A list of WA State Department of Health (DOH) COVID-19 vaccine locations can be found by visiting the DOH Vaccine Locator to find and schedule an appointment. If you need help, call the COVID-19 hotline 1-800-525-0127, then press #. All DOC employees and incarcerated individuals are eligible for COVID-19 vaccination.
Additionally, the DOC COVID-19 Vaccine Team will continue to schedule local vaccine clinics at worksites and has circulated a survey to determine demand.
2. Will DOC employees or incarcerated individuals be required to be vaccinated?
The WA State Governor made the decision to require all state employees within his executive branch of government to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of employment, unless you have an approved medical or religious exemption. All DOC employees and contractors must be fully vaccinated by October 18, 2021.
While COVID-19 vaccination is not required at this time for incarcerated individuals, we are strongly recommending that all incarcerated individuals are vaccinated. Getting vaccinated will help maintain a safe living environment and prevent COVID-19 outbreaks that threaten the health and well-being of all that live in DOC facilities. While declining the vaccine is an option, DOC’s goal is 100% vaccine coverage among incarcerated individuals.
3. Will DOC employees be charged for the vaccine? Can they be purchased online?
No. Employees should not be charged out-of-pocket costs or receive a bill from your provider or from any vaccination facility, regardless of your medical insurance coverage. Vaccines cannot be bought online.
4. Do I have to be a U.S. citizen to receive the vaccine?
No, you do not need to be a U.S. citizen to get the vaccine. That means you do not need a social security number, or other documents with your immigration status, to get the vaccine. Some vaccine providers might ask for a social security number, but you do not have to give one.
5. Does the vaccine really work if I got COVID-19 anyway?
Even though some vaccinated people may still get sick, data from the clinical studies also showed that COVID-19 vaccines were very effective against hospitalization and death from COVID-19. That means if you do get sick after you’re fully vaccinated, you still have some benefit from the vaccine because you may only get a mild case instead of a serious case.
6. Can vaccines give you COVID-19?
No. None of the currently available COVID-19 vaccines contain the live virus that causes COVID-19, so you cannot get the virus or the disease it causes from the vaccine. Having brief symptoms like fever, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, and nausea after you get a vaccine is normal and a sign your immune system is learning to fight the virus.
7. Will the COVID-19 vaccine affect fertility or reproductive health?
There is no scientific evidence that vaccines cause infertility or impotence. When the vaccine enters your body, it works with your immune system to create antibodies to fight the coronavirus. This process does not interfere with your reproductive organs.
8. What if I am pregnant or breast-feeding? Can I still get the vaccine?
If you are pregnant or breast-feeding and included in a group recommended to receive the vaccine, you may receive a COVID-19 vaccine. However, it is recommended that you discuss this decision with your health care provider.
9. If I’ve already had COVID-19, do I need a vaccine?
People who have gotten sick with COVID-19 may still benefit from getting vaccinated. There is not enough information currently available to say if or for how long people are protected from getting COVID-19 after they have had it (natural immunity).
10. Does the COVID-19 vaccine enter your cells and change your DNA?
No. The COVID-19 vaccines are designed to help your body’s immune system fight the coronavirus. The messenger RNA from two of the first types of COVID-19 vaccines does enter cells, but not the nucleus of the cells where DNA resides.
11. Was the COVID-19 vaccine developed with or contain controversial substances?
The first two COVID-19 vaccines to be authorized by the FDA contain mRNA and other, normal vaccine ingredients, such as fats (which protect the mRNA), salts, as well as a small amount of sugar. These COVID-19 vaccines were not developed using fetal tissue, and they do not contain any material, such as implants, microchips or tracking devices.
12. Can receiving a COVID-19 vaccine cause you to be magnetic?
No. Receiving a COVID-19 vaccine will not make you magnetic, including at the site of vaccination, which is usually your arm. COVID-19 vaccines do not contain ingredients that can produce an electromagnetic field at the site of your injection. All COVID-19 vaccines are free from metals.
13. Is it safe for my child to receive the COVID-19 vaccine?
Yes. Studies show that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. Like adults, children may have some side effects after COVID-19 vaccination. These side effects may affect their ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days. Children 12 years and older are currently eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
14. Will vaccinated people need booster doses?
The COVID-19 vaccines continue to be highly effective in reducing risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death, even against the widely circulating Delta variant. However, COVID-19 constantly evolves. Experts are looking at all available data to understand how well the vaccines are working, including how new variants, like Delta, affect vaccine effectiveness. If FDA authorizes and ACIP recommends it, the goal is for people to start receiving a COVID-19 booster shot this fall.
15. What are the effects of the Delta variant?
The Delta variant causes more infections and spreads faster than earlier forms of the virus that causes COVID-19. It might cause more severe illness than previous strains in unvaccinated people.
16. What if incarcerated individuals decline to take the vaccine and then change their mind?
If incarcerated individuals decline the vaccine and then change their mind they will be able to receive it at a later time. They can make a request for vaccine dosing after previously declining through their facility COVID-19 Vaccine Coordinator.
17. How do the available COVID-19 vaccines work?
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued emergency use authorization of the first COVID-19 vaccine, developed by Pfizer, on December 11, 2020, and the second developed by Moderna, on 12/18/20. To date Washington Corrections has received only doses of the Moderna vaccine. Both are messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines. In the human body, mRNA contains the instructions for creating proteins inside cells. In the case of these vaccines, the mRNA instructs the human cell to make viral proteins that stimulate the body’s immune system to protect against future infection by the virus that causes COVID-19.
18. Are the vaccines effective at preventing COVID-19 disease?
Yes, they are extremely effective in preventing symptomatic disease. In large phase 3 clinical trials, which enrolled tens of thousands of patients each, the two available COVID-19 vaccines were both approximately 94-95% effective at preventing symptoms due to COVID-19 compared with patients who received placebo.
19. Is the vaccine more dangerous than being infected with COVID-19??
No. As of January 22, 2021, more than 400,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 infection, including many who were young and previously healthy. Vaccines must undergo rigorous testing in clinical trials before they can be approved for use. The available COVID-19 vaccines were associated with only minor, temporary side effects in clinical trials and more serious side effects are exceedingly rare.
20. What are the short-term side effects of the vaccine?
Some individuals experience no side effects and some experience only soreness at the site of the injection. Others have side effects from COVID-19 vaccination that may feel like flu and might even affect your ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days. These side effects might include muscle aches, headache, and fever.
21. What if someone has an adverse reaction to the vaccine that is more serious than the side effects?
DOC employees and incarcerated individuals will be monitored for adverse reactions by medical staff for 15 minutes after the vaccine is given, or for 30 minutes if they have a history of severe allergic reactions. If they have an adverse reaction after that, such as swelling of the face, mouth, difficulty swallowing or breathing, they should call 911 immediately or declare a medical emergency.
22. Are there any long term side effects from the vaccine?
Since these vaccines have only been in existence for several months there is no evidence with which to answer this question with certainty. However, in general, long term adverse events from vaccines are exceedingly rare. Additionally, there is a national Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) that monitors vaccines for safety events after they have been approved and are in use, which will give us more information about long term safety in the future.
23. Can I receive the vaccine if I have a history of allergies?
Yes, people with previous histories of severe allergies to other vaccines, medications, foods or bee stings can still receive the vaccine, however, it is recommended they be monitored for 30 minutes instead of the usual 15. Severe allergic reactions to the available COVID-19 vaccines have been reported in the media, but are extremely rare.
24. Can the COVID-19 vaccine change my DNA?
The mRNA that comprises the COVID-19 vaccines does not enter the nucleus of human cells, where DNA resides. The mRNA is taken up into the outer part of the cell, where viral proteins are made, and then the mRNA is rapidly destroyed.
25. If both vaccines require two doses, can DOC employees mix the doses and get the Moderna vaccine first followed by the Pfizer vaccine?
No, both doses employees receive must be from the same manufacturer. The two available vaccines are not interchangeable. Moderna’s vaccine doses are given 28 days apart, and Pfizer’s 21 days apart.
26. How will people be sure to get their second dose? Is timing essential?
Tracking systems have been developed to ensure that DOC employees and incarcerated individuals receive the second dose of the correct vaccine at the right time. If you have questions about the second dose or believe you are overdue contact the facility COVID-19 vaccine coordinator by email or kite.
Timing of the second dose is important and should be given as close as possible to the recommended time interval. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently recommended that second doses of both vaccines currently in use can be given up to 6 weeks from the first and still be effective in cases where adhering to the time interval recommendation is not possible.
27. If I tested positive for COVID-19, do I still need to get the vaccine?
Yes, you should still be vaccinated against COVID-19. Natural immunity to COVID-19, which is your body’s immune response to infection, wanes over time, so it is recommended that you receive vaccine even if you have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past.
28. Will the fact that DOC employees received a vaccine go into their personal medical records?
Record of employee COVID-19 vaccination will be entered into Washington State’s Immunization Information System so employee's primary care provider can confirm that they received it.
29. Once DOC employees and incarcerated individuals are vaccinated, do they still need to mask and physical distance?
Yes. DOC’s Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Matrix should be followed to determine appropriate level of PPE.
30. When will Washington DOC receive doses of the COVID-19 vaccine?
This question is no longer relevant.
31. How will you distribute the vaccines?
This question is no longer relevant.
32. Is Washington State Department of Corrections developing a priority list for receiving vaccinations?
This question is no longer relevant.
1. Is the Department of Corrections (DOC) providing free access to phone calls, video visiting, and JPAY messaging?
As of June 13th, 2021, the amount of free calling for each individual was increased up to 20 minutes each week until further notice. The free calling can be used in a single call, or used across multiple calls to reach the total 20 minutes each week.
JPAY Messaging & Video Visits
JPay and the Washington Department of Corrections have partnered to continue offering free communications to ensure you stayed connected with loved ones.
Two (2) free 30-minute video connect session credit will be available in your JPay account each week through Friday, December 31, 2021. The two (2) free video connect session credit will be replenished every Friday, but only if the current free video connect session was used.
The two (2) free weekly stamps ended on Tuesday, August 31, 2021.
2. Is the agency expediting JPAY communications?
Everything is being processed per policy timeframes – 2 business days for physical mail and 7 business days for JPAY messages. Knowing how important these communications are, the agency will continue to monitor these timeframes and work to keep the turnaround times low.
3. I heard all tours, events, and visitation have been suspended. Are they going to be suspended indefinitely? How will I know when they are rescheduled?
This is a rapidly evolving situation. The health and safety of all employees, incarcerated individuals, visitors and the general public is a top priority.
- As of May 9, 2021, the department facilitated prescheduled one hour in-person visits behind COVID barriers.
- Beginning December 1, 2021, the department increased visit opportunities for incarcerated individuals from one to three times a month, up to 3 hours in duration.
- Beginning August 15, 2021, the department increased visits up to three hours in duration. Additionally, visits moved to a more typical visit-room-type experience and removed COVID barriers that were previously in place.
- Corrections has suspended all tours and events for four or more people.
All up-to-date information will be posted on the department’s COVID-19 page. We have posted facility specific restrictions on the department’s facility alert page.
4. Is the Department of Corrections (DOC) still allowing attorney visits?
Yes. Just as all persons entering the facilities, attorneys will be temperature screened, asked the screening questions, and complete a rapid antigen test.
5. How do I schedule an in-person prison visit?
- You must be an approved visitor.
- Complete the COVID-19 Prison Visit Appointment Request.
- Ensure you have the following information about the individual you wish to visit prior to submitting a request:
- DOC number
- Prison facility
- You will need to provide an email address that is current, and that you check frequently. Responses to your request for scheduling will be sent to the email address provided on your schedule request. Please allow a minimum of 10 business days for facility staff to respond to your request for a visit date.
- One submission listing all (up to 3) visitors is required.
- Do not submit multiple requests for the same visit period.
- An individual may have up to three visits a month. Visitors may submit three requests (each containing up to three different possible dates). Please do not submit additional requests as this will delay processing.
6. What if I’m not an approved visitor?
You need to submit your visitor application. If you submit a request to schedule prior to being on the approved visit list, you will not be scheduled for a visit. Visit applications generally are processed within 30 days of receipt but are currently delayed due to high volume and COVID. Please allow for a minimum of eight weeks to elapse from the date the application was submitted before asking for the status of your visit application.
7. I’m currently suspended due to a violation of video visit rules, can I visit in-person?
Video Visits must comply with all visit policy requirements and are considered a part of the visit program. A violation of video visit effects all of your visit opportunities, you will not be able to visit during a suspension period. Other visit types will be cancelled and new dates will not be scheduled until after your suspension period is ended. You may submit a request for an in person visit once your suspension has ended.
8. How long are in-person prison visits?
Visits are UP TO three (3) hours in duration.
Restricted housing will follow DOC 320.255 Restrictive Housing policy for hours according to Restrictive Housing Level System Grid (Attachment 2).
9. How often can an approved visitor visit?
Visitors may participate in a regular visit with an incarcerated individual up to three times per calendar month. Incarcerated individuals are allowed three regular visits a month. If there are multiple visitors on a list, the individual may want you to rotate visits. Extended Family Visits are not counted toward the three regular visit maximum.
10. When will the department consider expanding in-person visitation even further?
The Department of Corrections continues to review and evaluate the potential for further expansion of reopening in-person visitation based on guidance available from the Centers for Disease Control and the Washington State Department of Health for congregate living environments. Additional information will be conveyed via our process of sharing memos with staff, populations at our facilities and memos sent to statewide and local family councils. Additionally, updates regarding that status of visitation will be posted on our doc.wa.gov website. Family and friends of incarcerated individuals should continue to visit the department's website.
11. How many visitors can an individual have during each prison visit?
At this time, three visitors may participate in a scheduled visit. All visitors, regardless of age, count as a visitor. If children will be visiting, at least one visitor must be over 18 years of age and authorized to escort the minor(s) to visit.
Incarcerated individuals housed in a restricted housing Intensive Management Unit (IMU) may only have two visitors at a time.
12. Can our children come to visit?
At this time, up to two approved minor visitors may participate with an approved adult who is authorized to escort that minor to visit. Like all other visitors, children 2 years of age and older are required to wear a surgical mask. Regardless of age, all visitors will need to submit to an on-site rapid antigen test and receive a negative test result to visit. Parents or the approved escort will assist children with the nasal swab collection.
13. What is a cohort?
Visit cohorts include one or more groups of individuals within a living unit. Depending on the prison facility, groups within a living unit may be referred to as tiers, pods, wings or a direction (e.g., east, west, north, south). If you do not know the housing assignment for your incarcerated individual, please reach out to the individual for further information.
14. How do I know what unit to select for scheduling with an individual incarcerated in a prison?
Incarcerated individuals know which unit they are in. Please request the information from the individual you are visiting.
15. Who is responsible for scheduling and answering questions related to the scheduling of visits? Who can answer questions about a facility’s visit schedule?
There are prison staff who have been identified as responsible for processing requests and scheduling the visits.
When you’ve submitted a request to be scheduled for a prison visit, you will receive an email response from an appropriate shared mailbox. Should you have questions regarding scheduling a prison visit, you may respond to that email address. Please note that you must follow the process to schedule using the COVID-19 Prison Visit Appointment Request.
16. What happens if an incarcerated individual is transferred after a visit is scheduled?
There are cases when a transfer must occur. In those cases, the scheduled visit will be cancelled and visitors will need to submit a new visit request at the new location. When a visit is cancelled due to a required transfer, facility staff will do their best to notify the visitor(s), so it is important that visitors verify any scheduled visit prior to traveling to visit. Please make sure all contact information you provide in the visitor application is accurate and up to date.
17. What if the person I want to visit is housed in a unit/location that doesn’t show up on the prison visit schedule (e.g. Segregation, Hospital, etc.)?
Individuals housed in some locations are not able to participate in the visit program. If you do not see the unit as an option, then the incarcerated individual is not currently available to schedule for a visit. Please speak with your incarcerated individual to verify you have current information.
18. What do I do if the incarcerated person’s visit times are unavailable?
We know you’re excited to visit with your incarcerated person. However, space in the visit rooms is very limited. To ensure visit opportunities are as equitable as possible, requests are processed in the order received. If spaces are not open for scheduling, you may want to attempt to schedule for another time.
19. Can I call to schedule a prison visit?
In an effort to provide an equitable scheduling process, all visitors must schedule online using the COVID-19 Prison Visit Appointment Request form.
If you are unable to utilize the online tool, we encourage you to request assistance from your friends or family members. If that is not possible, you may wish to check with local resource providers to assist (e.g. public libraries).
20. I am immediate family and am approved to visit more than one incarcerated individual. Can I visit each of them in one month?
You may visit each individual up to three times per month, as long as the individual has not been scheduled for more than three visits that same month.
21. When should I arrive for a visit?
While we don’t allow for visitors on premises early, in order to ensure visitors are checked in and able to visit with their loved ones as long as possible, we ask that visitors arrive 15 minutes prior to the visit period beginning. Visitors who arrive after processing times may not be able to participate in visiting.
22. Is an incarcerated individual aware of scheduled visits?
Yes, the incarcerated individual is sent a kiosk message notifying them of their scheduled visits AND the visitor will receive notification of the scheduled date and time. An incarcerated individual is not notified if a visitor requests a visit but is unable to be scheduled.
23. Can I request a special visit?
Most often, no. However, the process for special visits is at the discretion of the facility superintendent. Due to limited space and availability, special visits will only be considered in very limited, extraordinary cases.
24. What if someone is Spanish speaking and is unable to utilize the English prison visit scheduling tool?
The department is working on a version of the COVID-19 Prison Visit Appointment Request that will make it easier for Spanish speaking individuals to utilize.
25. What kind of COVID protocols can I expect during my visit?
During the check in process, COVID-19 screening protocols (includes answering questions and getting a temperature check) and visitor check in will occur. All visitors over the age of 2 will be provided with a surgical mask, which must be worn at all times within the facility.
All visitors, regardless of age, will be required to take an on-site COVID-19 rapid antigen test prior to entry to the prison facility. Visitors who refuse testing will not be able to participate in in-person visit privileges.
If a visitor removes their mask at any point while on premises without explicit authorization, the visitor may be suspended from visit privileges. If an incarcerated individual removes their mask without explicit authorization, they may be infracted for the violation. See the COVID-19 Prison Visit Guidelines for more information.
26. What can I expect when I visit?
- Visits will be at tables (no barriers)
- Bathrooms will be available for use
- Vending services will not be available for use.
- Items for infants and toddlers up to 24 months are authorized per COVID-19 visitor guidelines.
- Children’s areas are closed at this time
- Bottled water available upon request
27. What if I need to request an accommodation due to a medical need?
Per 100.560 Non-Discrimination and Accessibility for Visitors/Guests with Disabilities, visitors must provide a minimum of 72 hours notification to facility staff for consideration of an appropriate and reasonable accommodation.
28. What if I am suspended after I’ve been scheduled an upcoming visit?
Your scheduled visit will be cancelled and you will need to wait until after your suspension has ended in order to schedule a new visit.
29. What If I cannot make it to my scheduled prison visit?
Please notify the facility using the email address you received your confirmation from. Notification must be made a minimum of 48 hours prior to your scheduled visit time. Visitors who do not notify (no call/no show) the facility of a cancellation may forfeit their opportunity to visit for the month.
30. When will I be able to schedule visits for 2022?
Effective December 17, 2021, approved visitors may use the COVID-19 Prison Visit Appointment Request to schedule visits in 2022.
31. How do I schedule an in-person work release facility visit?
In order to schedule an in-person facility visit, you must 1) be an approved visitor, 2) ensure you have the name and DOC number of the individual you wish to visit, and 3) contact the work release facility directly to schedule a visit date and time.
32. How long are in-person work release facility visits?
Visits are up to two hours in duration. Visits are scheduled for up to one hour – please arrive 15 minutes in advance for COVID rapid test.
33. How many visitors can an individual have during each work release facility visit?
It depends on facility designated visiting area size and capacity to ensure social distancing needs. Each facility will determine the number of visitors it can accommodate up to a maximum of six (6) visitors.
34. What do I need to do if I cannot make my scheduled work release facility visit?
Notify the work release facility 48 hours prior when possible to cancel your scheduled visit. You are not guaranteed rescheduled timeslot.
35. Who is eligible for in-person work release facility visit?
At this time only those residents who are not yet approved for social outings, or when the sponsors are unable to support social outings. All residents are eligible for in-person visits.
1. Will a staff person contact me and alert me of my loved one's placement?
A staff member will not contact family; however, all individuals are given access to a cell phone and allowed to make calls to their loved ones.
2. How often will my loved one get to shower?
Your loved one will get to shower at least one time after their first seven days of highly restricted movement. Showering frequency is then dependent on their location. For more information about the shower protocols, please review the WA State DOC COVID-19 Screening, Testing, and Infection Control Guideline.
3. Will my loved one have access to books?
Yes, your loved one will have access to books if they remain at the work release, either in normal status or if in quarantine. If your loved is moved to medical isolation, they will have access to books if they take books with them.
4. Will my loved one be able to receive and send mail?
Yes, your loved one will be able to receive and send mail while housed at the work release facility, even if in quarantine. If your loved one is transferred to another facility to fulfill medical isolation status, the time period is expected to be temporary, and their best means of communication during that time will be the agency-provided cell phone.
5. How soon and how often will my loved one get to call me?
Residents of COVID-affected work release facilities are given access to a cell phone for communication purposes. They will have access to the provided cell phone to make phone calls to loved ones.
6. What personal belongings will my loved one get to take with them to medical isolation?
Your loved one will be able to take one large duffel bag of personal belongings, including books, clothing, and other items, with them to medical isolation.
7. How often will my loved one have access to laundry services?
Laundry services will be provided one time per week for individuals in remaining in a work release setting. Laundry services will be provided as needed for individuals transferred to a medical isolation facility.
8. What hygiene items will be provided to my loved one?
If a work release individual in quarantine or medical isolation runs out of a specific hygiene item, a replacement hygiene item will be provided from the indigent hygiene list.
9. How much human contact will my loved one receive?
As part of the COVID protocols, human contact is limited while individuals are in quarantine and medical isolation. They will have access to a cell phone to call as often as they would like. If your loved one needs or wants additional medical treatment, your loved one would declare a medical emergency and be taken to a local emergency room.
10. How soon will my loved one's medications follow them to their new area of placement?
Individuals who are moved to medical isolation will take their medications with them when they leave. At this time, medication refills needed during medical isolation are being filled by the Department’s in-house pharmacy.
11. Who can I contact for help if my loved one is not receiving what policy allows them?
Please contact your loved one’s community corrections officer if your loved one needs assistance.
12. What are the relevant policies governing these placements?
For information about placements as they pertain to quarantine and medical isolation, please review the WA State DOC COVID-19 Screening, Testing, and Infection Control Guideline.
13. What is the difference between quarantine and medical isolation?
Quarantine status is for individuals who have been identified as a close contact to an individual who has symptoms consistent with a COVID-19 diagnosis or has tested positive for COVID-19. Two or more positive tests within a given work release facility will lead to the entire work release facility being placed on a facility-wide quarantine.
Individuals on medical isolation status are individuals who are presenting symptoms consistent with a COVID-19 diagnosis or have received a positive COVID-19 test result. Medical isolation is a highly restricted movement that is required for 14 days to mitigate the potential spread of COVID-19 throughout the population and staff within the facility.