Keeping in Contact

Alterations to Services & Protocols to Promote Social Distancing

In line with NYC DOHMH guidance, the Department is taking a number of precautions to promote social distancing and reduce the risk of potential spread of the coronavirus in our facilities. In order to promote appropriate social distancing, the following services and protocols have been suspended or altered.

  • In-person visits: In-person visits have been suspended starting Wednesday, March 18, 2020. Televisits and increased support for connection to loved ones are being offered at this time.

    • From March 13 to March 15 per State Commission of Correction guidance, DOC worked with contracted providers to screen all visitors for symptoms and risk factors of COVID-19, including a nurse screening where appropriate.

  • Court appearances: Most in person court appearances have been suspended, per order from the New York State Office of Court Administration.
  • State transfers: All transfers to state prison have been suspended as of March 19, 2020.

  • In-person programming: All in-person programming, as well as events facilitated by contracted providers and volunteer groups, have been suspended. Program staff and providers are delivering programming and services to people in custody by alternative means where possible.

The Department recognizes that it is imperative that people in custody receive access to critical services and information, and has implemented the following measures to ensure continuation of access of services.

  • Televisits: For the first time, the City is working to implement a televisit initiative that will allow prospective visitors to use their own personal PC or mobile device to video conference with loved ones in custody.

    • With this program, televisting can now be accessed from home. All a visitor needs to connect with a person in custody is an electronic device with a camera, valid identification, internet connection, and an active email account.

    • Televisiting will follow the same schedule as in-person visits, meaning they will take place from 1pm-8pm Wednesday and Thursday, and 7am-2pm Friday, Saturday, and Sunday according to the incarcerated individual's last name.

    • For more information on the new televisiting initiative, including information on scheduling and rules for conduct during the televisit, please visit the Department's dedicated webpage on this matter here.

  • Increased support for connections to loved ones: In an effort to further increase connections between people in custody and their loved ones, starting on Thursday, April 2nd, the Department is offering three free stamps, three free envelopes, or three pre-stamped envelopes per week to people in custody for correspondence purposes.

    • Per existing policy, DOC continues to offer phone calls for people in custody free of charge.

  • Court appearances and access to counsel: DOC has expanded existing Skype video teleconferencing infastructure to ensure access for those in our custody. DOC continues to utilize existing infrastructure to ensure attorneys have Skype video teleconferencing access to their clients. Per existing policy, phone calls to attorneys are offered free of charge, without limits.

  • Programming and services: Programs staff are providing self-study, self-directed material to interested persons. DOC continues to work with program providers to provide remote programming and services to people in custody where possible.

    • New discharge planning hotlines have been established, staffed by re-entry providers, which allow people in custody to connect to essential services in preparation for their release.

    • DOC continues to evaluation how to provide programming and services in a safe manner while following social distancing guidelines, and will update this plan with changes to programming protocols as they develop.
  • Chaplaincy Services: The Department recognizes spiritual care and support is especially important in this challenging time. One-on-one chaplaincy services have continued in a limited basis, but to ensure all people can have regular access to chaplaincy care, the Department has also created a dedicated chaplaincy services hotline. People in custody can reach a chaplain through the hotline during hours when phone calls are regularly permitted. Information on how to dial the hotline has been placed in all facilities.

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