Visitors now allowed at most state prisons after 7 months
For the first time since March, friends and family can visit inmates at Connecticut prisons.
The Department of Correction began allowing non-contact social visits at most state facilities Thursday.
Janet Esposito did not stop smiling after seeing her son Ronnie for the first time in more than seven months.
News 12 spoke with Esposito as she left Cheshire Correctional Institution and headed back to Bethel. Her trip Thursday afternoon came on the first day Connecticut facilities resumed in-person visits, which also happened to be her son's 19th birthday.
"Just to look in my son's eyes was amazing," said Esposito.
Social calls during the pandemic now come with new protocols. They must be scheduled 72 hours in advance through the Department of Correction's website. Masks are a requirement, with temperature checks and health screenings conducted on arrival. Visits are capped at 30 minutes with up to two people allowed, and there is no contact allowed.
"When the only type of touch someone feels in prison is a pat down, think about what that does to somebody over time," said Debra Martinez.
Martinez used to see her brother four times a week, with hugs every time. Isschar Howard is serving a life sentence at Cheshire.
Martinez says it's been hard on her and her brother, but she understands the need to do everything safely.
In-person visits are still on hold at Hartford Correctional Center and Osborn Correctional Institute after COVID-19 outbreaks there.
Michele, who did not wish to give her last name, has a loved one at Osborn.
"It is an emotional letdown for sure, but I'm trying to keep the higher perspective of, we're protecting his health, we're protecting the health of the other residents, we're protecting the health of the staff," said Michele.
For now, Michele will continue daily phone calls there, despite the expense. She says it can cost up to $400 a month.
"But we absolutely have to do that because it's our only form of connection at this point," she said.
Martinez recommends that visitors print out and bring their email confirmation that shows they're approved.
The DOC also recently announced it hopes to start having free video calls.