Middle River Regional Jail offers inmates free calls during visitation suspension

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AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) — With all visitation to Middle River Regional Jail, and all jails and prisons across Virginia, suspended until further notice, the jail is offering inmates some other ways to contact family members.

Middle River suspended all visitation as of last Friday, March 13.

But the jail says, through their inmate phone system partner, they will be offering inmates two free 5-minute calls each week for the next 30 days.

An initial statement from the jail said they would offer two free calls per day, but they say there was some miscommunication with their phone team and the two free calls will be issued weekly and not daily.

They say they are working on the possibility of additional solutions in the time to come.

The calls are expected to become available as of Thursday morning, March 19.

Jail officials say inmates can also continue to stay in contact with family through email, writing letters, and additional debit and collect phone calls.

As of March 9, the jail began taking the temperature of all inmates leaving the facility for court or other appointments.

Effective as of last Thursday, the following new policies were implemented:

1. All staff, contractors, and visitors that require entrance to the secure perimeter of MRRJ will be required to have their temperature taken. Any individual with a temperature 100 degrees or more will be denied entry.
2. All inmates to include work release inmates have had their temperature taken prior to departing the facility. Any inmate with a temperature 100 degrees or more will not be permitted to depart the facility, will be segregated and examined by medical staff. Medical staff will consult with the on-call physician if indicated.
3. All inmates returning to MRRJ will have their temperature taken prior to returning to the general population of the facility. Any inmate with a temperature 100 degrees or more will not be permitted to return to the general population, will be segregated and examined by medical staff. Medical staff will consult with the on-call physician if indicated.
4. Every new arrestee processed had the following questions added to the intake interview:
a. Have you traveled outside the United States in the last 21 days?
b. Have you been exposed to anyone that has been diagnosed with the Coronavirus?
c. Have you experienced a cough in the last 21 days?
d. Have you experienced a temperature of 100 or higher degrees in the last 21 days?
e. Have you experienced trouble breathing in the last 21 days?
f. Any inmate responding yes to any of the questions will be placed in a single cell in Intake until further
screened by Medical Staff.

5. Work Release programs have been reduced (no weekend work).
6. Inmate workforce crews (crews under the supervision of jail staff that work in the community) have been reduced.
7. Program staff are discussing with volunteers, that work with inmates, these new protocols. Where indicated, programs lead by volunteers are being suspended.

Jail officials say they will continue to monitor guidance from the CDC and make changes to operations in accordance with those guidelines.