OSCEOLA — Just two weeks after piloting in-person visitation at a Mississippi County facility, the Arkansas Department of Corrections prisons are locked down due to the increase in coronavirus cases among staffers.
ADC’s Northeast Arkansas Community Corrections Center was one of four units chosen for its visitation pilot. Nearly 180 residents were being held at the facility as of Dec. 8, communications director Cindy Murphy said.
“This pilot will allow us to determine the safety of this plan before expanding to other locations,” Murphy previously told The Sun.
“Division of Community Correction leaders selected this center as a pilot location based on several factors including size and meeting space availability.”
Corrections Secretary Solomon Graves announced Wednesday that the pilot has been suspended and facilities will be locked down until at least Jan. 15.
“The goal of this lockdown is to lessen the impact of the increase in community cases,” Graves said. “Please follow the advice of public health professionals and limit social gatherings. … I am asking that you join me in making this season of sacrifice so we can enjoy the spring, summary and beyond as healthy as possible.”
As of Monday, three inmates and four staffers at Northeast Arkansas Community Corrections Center were infected with COVID-19, according to an Arkansas Department of Health report.
Similarly, the Craighead County Detention Center resumed in-person visitation on a trial basis in October, as previously reported. After a single weekend of 10-minute visit, it was suspended.
“I don’t see us opening back up any time in the immediate future,” Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Justin Rolland told The Sun in December.
Jonesboro detainees do have access to phones, email and regular mail, in lieu of in-person visits. The Sun‘s efforts to reach Rolland for comment on the jail’s current status of developing a virtual visitation system were unsuccessful.
As of Monday, the following ADC facilities had active cases, according to ADH:
Grimes Unit in Newport, 179 inmates, 14 staff.
McPherson Unit in Newport, 12 inmates, 9 staff.
East Arkansas Community Corrections Center Women’s Unit in West Memphis, 12 inmates, 3 staff.
Northeast Arkansas Community Corrects Center in Osceola, 3 inmates, 4 staff.