FRANKFORT, Ky. — While some long-term care facilities have seen in-person visitation restrictions relax, families of Kentucky's prison inmates are disappointed their loved ones haven't yet been granted the same access to visits.
It's been about a year since some have seen their family members outside of a brief video call.
A group of Green River Correctional Complex inmates' wives is pushing for visits to be restored and for inmates to be vaccinated.
Green River Correctional Complex (GRCC) was the site of one of the first major COVID-19 outbreaks with multiple cases and three deaths.
Families of inmates have been worried ever since and are now hoping for in-person visits.
It's been about a year since Mekayla Breland has been able to see her fiancé at the prison face-to-face.
"It’s just really disappointing," Breland said. "We miss the people that we care about, completely.”
There's also Lavonsaye Wilkerson, who's gone without seeing her husband for the same period of time. She told Spectrum News 1 they get a 15-minute video call once per month that is scheduled weeks in advance.
"He’s frustrated. He’s upset . . . it isn’t even like an immediate visit. You still have to wait weeks and weeks," she said.
The suspended visitations are first on a long list of COVID safety precautions the Department of Corrections (DOC) posted online. A DOC spokesperson also said inmates are allowed one free phone call per week and two free messages.
On when this could change, Gov. Andy Beshear said, "when we are able to get at least a portion of those facilities vaccinated. We are still working on those plans, and as we’ve seen the spread in prisons can happen really quickly, so we want to make sure that we are careful.”
Beshear continued: "The visitation limitations that we have, I certainly feel personally that people should have more options to their family than that. When we originally restricted visitations in our prisons, that was one of the things that we pledged to do. So I will personally ask about that."
Breland also hopes inmates can be vaccinated.
"I believe inmates should be prioritized as well. They’re in large facilities with multiple people, and they have a right to be vaccinated just like everybody else," she said.
The DOC said there are vaccination clinics underway for staff, which should have been completed by Feb. 18. However, inclement weather pushed that finish date back to March 3.
Currently, there are 40 inmate COVID-19 cases, in all prison facilities combined. There are 22 staff cases. There have been 44 inmate deaths since the beginning of the pandemic and five staff deaths, according to DOC data.