BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – As the current surge of COVID-19 continues to take hold of the community, the Louisiana state prisons and juvenile correctional facilities are suspending in-person visitation. Officials say this move is necessary to slow down the spread of COVID in the facilities.

The Omicron variant is spreading through the community like wildfire. Beth Touchet-Morga from the Office of Juvenile Justice said suspending visitation is the right thing to do.

“In an overabundance of caution, we are restricting visitors, volunteers, and other non-essential folks right now,” Touchet-Morgan said.

This isn’t the first-time visitation has been suspended for those incarcerated in Louisiana. 

“Visitation was suspended from about March 2020 until about April 2021, actually right before Easter. We reinitiated visitation into the facilities. We shut it down again for a little while between July and October, remember we had another July spike when we had our delta spike,” said Touchet-Morgan.

Video visitation will continue for juvenile facilities, while the state prisons will offer two free phone calls per week and video calls for a fee.

“It’s very important in the rehabilitation of the kids to remain in contact with their families. They are their main support system. We want to make sure that they are a part of the therapeutic process and part of their recovery process,” Touchet-Morgan said.

Neither department knows when the suspension will be lifted, but Morgan said the OJJ will be monitoring the data.

“We are really going to watch this week by week as far as reopening visitation, so as soon as we see the numbers go down in the community and within the facility, we will reinstate visitation,” Touchet-Morgan said.

Approximately 83 percent of prisoners in Louisiana’s state-run prisons have been voluntarily vaccinated, and the department continues to make vaccinations and booster shots available to all inmates, according to a statement from the department.