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PRESS RELEASE: Corrections Announces Social Outing Pilot Project for Three Work Release Facilities

Released September 23, 2020, Updated September 24, 2020

By Janelle Guthrie

DOC Communications

Map of Longview work release depicting counties by color and number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents. Red counties with more than 75/100,000 are Lewis County; Yellow counties w/ 25-75/100,000 are Pacific, Cowlitz, Clark, Skamania counties; Green county w/ less than 25/100,000 are Wahkiakum County.

The Longview Work Release is one of three pilot facilities reopening for social outings based on the number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents in the region as depicted in this map.

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TUMWATER – As various counties move through the Governor’s Safe Start phased reopening plan (pdf), effective September 23, 2020, the Washington Department of Corrections is re-establishing social outings with strict criteria to protect families, incarcerated individuals, staff and communities at work release facilities in three pilot locations:

“The Department of Corrections is committed to protecting the incarcerated population, promoting pro-social activities and assisting with a successful transition and reentry to the community,” said Susie Leavell, reentry senior administrator for the Department. “Social outings are an important part of the reentry pathway, allowing individuals to spend time in the community with family and friends. Unfortunately, due to restrictions required to protect sponsor(s), facility staff, and the community at large from the spread of COVID-19, the Department had to suspend socials and visitation at our work release facilities.”

Criteria designed to allow pro-social contacts without direct exposure at facilities

The department identified the three pilot work release locations based on the number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 resident for each county for the two-week period ending on September 20, 2020:

  • Red counties are those with a high rate of new cases (More than 75 new cases/100,000)
  • Yellow counties are those with a moderate rate (Between 25 and 75 new cases/100,000)
  • Green counties are those with a low rate (Less than 25 new cases/100,000)

Attached are maps including the three pilot facilities and surrounding counties by color. If at any time, the facility’s county faces an increase in its rate of new cases that places it into a new color category, the facility will assess the need to change given the risk presented.

  • If the work release facilities facility is in a green county:
    • Residents may participate in approved social outings in the county of their release address and may go to their release residence if the release county is green.
    • If the social sponsor is coming from a yellow county, residents may only participate in social outings within their own work release facilities county and only to public areas.
  • If the work release facilities is in a yellow county:
    • Residents can only participate in social outings within the county where the work release facilities is located with social sponsors from yellow or green counties.
    • All social outings will be to public places. No home socials.

Residents will adhere to the state's phase rules by county and any other COVID restrictions. They may not travel to more restrictive counties. During this pilot, family members who reside out of state will not be able to participate in socials outings with work release residents.

If a work release facility is in a red county, or the county in which a work facility exists becomes red, residents are not eligible for social outings and may not participate in social outings if their social sponsor resides in a red county.

Strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols required

The Department is warning all sponsors and residents to abide by and follow all current Department of Health (DOH) and Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 safety guidelines and protocols when out of the facility on an approved social outing. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Following the guidelines set forth regarding “Safe Start Corrections: work release facilities”
  • Always wearing an approved face covering or mask (both resident and sponsor)
  • Practicing social distancing
  • Submitting to the COVID-19 screening process
  • Only visiting locations in the community that are actively practicing and are in-compliance with all county, DOH and CDC COVID-19 safety guidelines and protocols

Failure to comply with this guidance may result in termination of social outing privileges.

Paving the way for future re-openings

During the pilot, visiting inside work release facilities will still not occur. The Department continues to use data and science to take measured steps to eventually return to full operations, including visitation in both correctional facilities and work release, within the scope of the new normal. Detailed plans may be found on the Department’s Safe Start Corrections (pdf) plan as they become available.