The suspension will begin Tuesday and will remain until further notice, according to a release.
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“Since the beginning of the pandemic, Sheriff’s Office employees have worked diligently to maintain a high level of public service and care, implementing necessary public health measures and aggressive testing,” Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said in the release. “Although we understand the desire to visit with loved ones in person, the health of staff, those in our custody, and our community is our top priority.”
Attorney-client interviews and other essential visits will still be allowed, as will video visitations for friends and family. Inmates will be allowed two free calls per week through a free calling program that will be temporarily implemented, officials said. The measures echo similar ones taken at the jail in March 2020 when The Texas Department of Criminal Justice temporarily suspended visitation at all facilities statewide.
Officials said the visitation plan follows the guidance of public health officials amid Houston’s newest COVID surge that has infections rising rapidly. Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo last week raised the county’s COVID threat level to “significant,” which recommends that people minimize all unnecessary contacts in order to stem the flow of the virus.
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The population at the Harris County jail has climbed in recent months and is expected to increase through the end of the year due to slowdowns in the court system during the holidays. Less than half of the population have received at least one dose of the vaccine as of late November.