Neb. prisons set to relax COVID-19 restrictions

Prisons Director Scott Frakes said the changes are conditional on virus cases remaining low, both within NDCS and in the community


By Lori Pilger
Lincoln Journal Star
        
LINCOLN, Neb. — The Nebraska Department of Correctional Services soon will begin relaxing standards put in place at the start of the pandemic for visitors and volunteers and allowing more activities at the state's prisons.

"This is a huge step forward and one that is sure to be welcomed by staff members as well as inmates," said Prisons Director Scott Frakes. "We have been operating under limits for almost a year and a half. But now, we are in a good place to make this turn and re-initiate some of things we were doing pre-COVID."

Starting Friday, the prison also will increase the number of visitors allowed at any given time to three. Children of any age are also permitted.

The Staff Training Academy also will transition to more normal operations, with larger class sizes, CPR and other physical activities, and graduations.
The Staff Training Academy also will transition to more normal operations, with larger class sizes, CPR and other physical activities, and graduations. (Nebraska Department of Correctional Services)

Frakes said visitors still will need to preregister on the prison's website for a day and time slot, and there still will be restrictions in place to maintain social distancing and limit physical contact and the sharing of food or drinks.

Volunteers who help facilitate self-betterment programs and other activities also will be allowed to return in the coming week. Congregate worship and educational activities will resume, and community custody inmates will have the opportunity to visit family members and take part in other community activities.

The Staff Training Academy also will transition to more normal operations. That includes increasing class sizes, resuming CPR and other physical activities, as well as resuming graduations.

Frakes said staff members and inmates still will be expected to wear masks and maintain 3 feet of social distancing and disinfecting practices.

"Staff members and visitors will still be expected to self-assess their symptoms. They will sign a log upon entry by which they affirm that they don't have a fever or any of the other symptoms associated with COVID-19," Frakes said.

He said the upcoming changes are conditional on virus cases remaining low, within NDCS as well as in the community.

"We will remain vigilant. If signs suddenly point to an uptick, we will change course accordingly," Frakes said. "Our ability to keep people healthy, including those from the community who have contact with us, is paramount to our plan of action."
     
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