County jail in 3rd month of resumed in-person visits

  • The Franklin County House of Correction in Greenfield, pictured, has entered its third month of in-person visits, having resumed the practice one year after the COVID-19 pandemic forced its hiatus. STAFF FILE PHOTO/ANDY CASTILLO

Staff Writer
Published: 6/1/2021 5:05:44 PM

GREENFIELD — The Franklin County House of Correction has entered its third month of in-person visits, having resumed the practice one year after the COVID-19 pandemic forced its hiatus.

Sheriff Christopher Donelan explained visitations haven’t quite returned to pre-coronavirus normalcy, as people wishing to see an inmate must register online “so we don’t have too many people in here at once.” He said registered visitors enter the lobby of the medium-security facility and are escorted to one side of a wall, where they sit in something of an enclosed booth and communicate via telephone with an inmate on the other side of a pane of glass. He said this is the case for the facility’s four pods, which as of Tuesday morning contained roughly 140 inmates.

“It’s been very smooth. By limiting the number of people ... we’re able to clean in between visits,” Donelan said, adding that inmates in quarantine due to COVID-19 or other illnesses are not allowed visitors. Anyone wanting to visit an inmate must go to bit.ly/3phKxwv to fill out an on-site visit form.

Lt. Gary Hicks said visits are held every Wednesday and Saturday.

Donelan said inmates and visitors have been grateful for the visits and have cooperated with all precautionary measures.

“I think they appreciate it,” he said.

Inmate Kyle Godsoe said his father, who is retired, comes from Fitchburg to visit him every other Wednesday.

“It’s huge that they opened the visits up,” he said. “Nothing compares to a visit, you know what I mean? I feel better after having a visit.”

Godsoe, 30, said he has noticed a boost in morale since Donelan delivered the news. He said inmates make sure to shave and get haircuts before a visit.

“It was definitely a mood-changer,” he said.

Hicks explained the facility uses a “phase-up program,” in which good behavior and program attendance can earn inmates various phases of benefits, such as increased time with visitors.

Inmate Daniel Bowers said his fiancee and his brother, Kenneth, visit him every Wednesday.

“Behind the glass is a little bit impersonal, but for the most part it’s very accommodating, if you will,” said Bowers. “It’s actually pretty good. It’s a long time coming. Of course, the sheriff’s department has been very good about it.”

Bowers, 58, said his fiancee has spoken very highly about the sheriff’s office staffer handling the phone system. He said he greatly looks forward to seeing his loved ones.

“It’s the highlight of my week,” he said.

Kenneth Bowers, who lives in Athol, said he is disappointed he still can’t hug his brother, but seeing him will suffice for now. He said each visit is a joyous occasion, though it is always followed by sadness when it is time to leave.

“When you go there, you have your ups, and then as you’re leaving, you have your downs,” he said, adding that the staffers have treated him very kindly. “They’ve been excellent. They’ve all be really nice.”

All state Department of Correction facilities have now instituted the plan. In-person visitation resumed at four minimum-security and pre-release facilities three weeks ago and all remaining facilities followed suit June 1. According to the state, department facilities and certain other congregate settings will still require face coverings and other health and safety precautions.

“The DOC will continue to follow public health guidelines for correctional settings and remains focused on its responsibility to those living and working in its facilities,” a statement reads. “Visitors should contact their loved ones’ respective facilities by phone in advance to obtain additional information about health and safety protocols that remain in place.

“DOC remains committed to using public health guidance and data, including positive test rates within DOC facilities and in the broader community, to protect inmates, staff, visitors, and the public,” the statement continues.

Attorney visits remain ongoing.

According to the state, Gov. Charlie Baker placed inmates and correctional staff among the first priority groups for COVID-19 vaccinations and the Department of Correction has administered more than 15,000 vaccine doses to inmates and staff. The DOC will not make it mandatory that visitors be vaccinated, though they will be asked upon arrival to complete an entry form identifying potential COVID-19 exposure factors and have their temperatures taken. Visitors will also be required to use hand sanitizer before and after the visiting period and face coverings must worn at all times, both by visitors and inmates.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.




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