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COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

General

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% (pdf).

Revised 10/22/2020

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?

Yes.

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 (pdf) 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.

Revised 1/5/2021

Incarcerated Population Reduction Efforts

1. Is Department of Corrections (DOC) considering compassionate release?

The Governor’s emergency proclamation (pdf) and commutation order (pdf) 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).

Revised 4/29/2020

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.

Revised 5/15/2020

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.

Revised 5/15/2020

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 (pdf), 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.

Social Distancing

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.

Vaccine

1. Is Washington State Department of Corrections developing a priority list for receiving vaccinations?

Yes. While the Department would prefer to vaccinate all employees and incarcerated individuals as soon as possible, vaccine doses will initially be very limited so the Department must prioritize doses to the highest risk individuals. The priority list is based on the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices (ACIP) and Washington State Department of Health (DOH) recommendations for Phase 1A vaccine dosing prioritization. The recommendation is that workers in healthcare settings, who are most at risk for becoming infected, such as those working in units that care for people with COVID-19 as well as residents of long-term care facilities, be offered the first available doses of the vaccine.

According to Washington State Corrections’ current Phase 1A prioritization plan, reviewed with the Washington State Department of Health, the following groups will be offered priority vaccines:

  1. Departmental staff working in the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center (CRCC) Sage East unit, a long-term care living unit that houses geriatric incarcerated individuals with chronic medical needs and/or requiring assistance with activities and daily living;
  2. Incarcerated individuals who are geriatric with chronic medical needs residing and/or requiring assistance with activities of daily living in CRCC Sage East, a long term care living unit in the facility that houses less than 40 individuals, or other long term care patients (approximately 20) with similar needs who cannot reside in Sage East;
  3. Departmental staff working in medical in-patient units at multiple facilities and regional care facilities (RCF) caring for COVID-19 patients; and,
  4. Departmental staff working in medical isolation units at multiple facilities comprised of COVID-19 patients.

All employees and incarcerated individuals not listed above will be offered a COVID-19 vaccination in the coming weeks and months as the Department receives more doses and further prioritization guidelines are issued by the CDC and Washington State DOH.

Revised 12/29/2020

2. When will Washington DOC receive doses of the COVID-19 vaccine?

The Department of Corrections has begun receiving COVID-19 vaccine doses and, as of December 28, 2020, has begun vaccinating departmental employees and incarcerated individuals according to the Phase 1A prioritization plan.

Revised 12/29/2020

3. How will you distribute the vaccines?

Vaccine doses will be sent directly to the facilities housing or employing the individuals and employees identified in the Phase 1A prioritization plan. Identification of receiving facilities based on updated prioritization will be done on a weekly basis. Each COVID-19 vaccine has its own handling and storage requirements requiring careful planning and coordination.

Revised 12/29/2020

Visiting

1. Is the Department of Corrections (DOC) providing free and full access to phone calls, video visiting, and JPAY messaging?

Effective March 18, Global Tel Link started providing two (2) free phone calls of up to five (5) minutes each, every week to the incarcerated population. This will last until April 14, at which time it will be reviewed for possible additional options.

Effective March 20, JPay will be providing the following discounts for incarcerated individuals, their friends and families:

  • Reduced cost for inbound VideoGrams
  • One free video visit credit per JPay account
  • Two free stamps (or credits) each week credited individuals’ JPay accounts

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 March 13th, visitation at all correctional facilities, including extended family visits has been suspended and DOC has suspended all tours and events for four or more people.

All up-to-date information will be posted on the DOC’s COVID-19 page. We have posted facility specific restrictions on the DOC’s facility alert page.

4. I had scheduled an Extended Family Visit (EFV) with an incarcerated individual, but it’s been cancelled. Will I receive a refund for the EFV fee?

Yes. DOC has authorized refunds for EFV fees for EFVs that have been cancelled. Anyone who has already paid an EFV fund and needs a refund should contact the individual facility.

5. Is the Department of Corrections (DOC) still allowing attorney visits?

Yes. Just as all persons entering the facilities will be temperature screened and asked the screening questions, attorneys will be as well.

Work/Training Release

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.

Revised 1/5/2021

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 (pdf).

Revised 1/5/2021

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.

Revised 1/5/2021

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.

Revised 1/5/2021

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.

Revised 1/5/2021

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.

Revised 1/5/2021

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.

Revised 1/5/2021

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.

Revised 1/5/2021

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.

Revised 1/5/2021

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.

Revised 1/5/2021

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.

Revised 1/5/2021

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 (pdf).

Revised 1/5/2021

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.

Revised 1/5/2021