As compensation for suspending all visitation and volunteer access to state penal institutions effective March 13, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections inked an agreement to provide every inmate with two free 5-minute-long telephone calls each week.
The pact went into effect March 18 and continues through April 14, and “will help ensure inmates’ important connections with loved ones continue,” said Matt Elliott, the DOC’s public information manager. Telecommunications company GTL provides inmate telephone service inside state prison facilities.
The department “is also exploring other ways to provide communication be- tween inmates and their families,” Elliott said. Oklahoma had 24,967 incarcerated prison inmates as of the latest headcount on Monday. Additionally, the ODOC is screening staff daily for symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, when they arrive for their shifts. If an employee exhibits symptoms such as a fever, shortness of breath or a cough, he/she will be required to return home.
The Corrections Department has established a DOC COVID-19 Update telephone line for information related to the pandemic. The public can call 405-425-2556 for updates on facility access, visitation, and other news. Staff members inside prison facilities are prioritizing inmate sick call requests related to respiratory issues for signs of COVID-19, Elliott said.