Alexandria, VA

Inmates at the Alexandria Jail have also had to adapt to the coronavirus, and with visitation limited are now having weekly 10 minute-long Zoom meetings with family members.

There are 210 inmates in the jail (well below capacity at 338 inmates) and currently none are infected with COVID-19, according the Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Amy Bertsch. Inmates are required to move around common areas with face masks and observe social distancing.

The new visitation rules were enacted last week, and visitation hours are between 7:30 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. and  8 to 10 p.m.

“We want them to be connected to their family and friends,” Bertsch told ALXnow. “We want them to be engaged, and so the video visitation is one effort to do that.”

Deputy Jacquelyn Olson was tasked by the sheriff to organize the effort, and said that visitations are hooked up to smart TVs in six separate locations around the jail. Inmates sign up on a schedule and Olson reaches out to family members and books the meetings, which are held in the presence of a single deputy.

“Hopefully as things start to get a little bit smoother we can increase it a little bit, but everybody gets 10 minutes for now,” Olson said, adding that the visitations are a morale booster. “We’ve had a super positive impact so far. I’ve seen people crying, people who get to see their kids. They get to see their pets. They’ve got family overseas and in other countries or on the other side of the country and they finally get to see them for the first time in who knows how long.”

The sheriff’s office reportedly starting preparing for the virus in February, and most staff are essential personnel, and are still coming into work. Staff and inmates have also “tripled” cleaning efforts, Sheriff Dana Lawhorne told ALXnow in March, who added that his office is also conducting a thorough intake screening process.

“If somebody is diagnosed with the coronavirus and they happen to be get arrested for some reason, our screening processes for them are much different. If that person gets committed to the jail then we have measures in place to contain that,” he said.

Photo via City of Alexandria

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