MADISON — Wisconsin prison officials announced Monday they will end a ban on in-person visits later this month as the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.
The state Department of Corrections said people can resume scheduling in-person visits again on June 16.
The Archdiocese of Milwaukee filed a lawsuit in May demanding that the department relax restrictions and allow ministers to visit inmates, arguing the ban on visitors violates a state law that grants clergy of all faiths weekly visits with inmates as well as inmates’ freedom of religion.
Conservative law firm Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty filed the lawsuit. WILL Deputy Counsel Anthony LoCoco said it shouldn’t have taken a lawsuit to resume in-person visits.
The DOC’s announcement Monday didn’t mention the lawsuit. Department spokesperson John Beard said the filing didn’t spur the return to in-person visits.
The announcement did say that COVID-19 activity within the state’s 37 institutions has declined dramatically to only 11 cases among the state’s 19,000 inmates. Nearly 60% of inmates have been fully vaccinated, the department added.
Visitors will still have to take precautions, such as meeting inmates in rooms with enough space for social distancing and submitting to a screening for COVID-19 symptoms. Visitors, inmates and staff also will have to continue wearing masks.