FRANKFORT, Ky. — Families of prison inmates haven’t been able to see their loved ones since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

What You Need To Know

  • Kentucky will allow in-person visits at state-run prisons starting the week of June 20

  • Appointments will be required and sign ups will begin June 4

  • Several rules will be in place, including proof of vaccination for visitors

  • 76% of prison inmates have been vaccinated

“I want to see him but I understand why I can’t see him because they don’t want me bringing it in or them giving it to anybody, but it was hard,” said Lottie, the wife of an inmate.

Gov. Andy Beshear announced Tuesday that in-person visits will resume the week of June 20, but with several conditions: only two people are allowed at a time, visitations have to be scheduled in advance and visitors have to show proof of their coronavirus vaccinations.

“Remember, this is a setting where if there is a COVID outbreak, we have seen that it can be devastating how quickly it can spread,” Beshear said. “So we are taking precautions while still opening up visitations.”

Lottie was actually in the middle of work when the news came out.  

“After I got off the phone call I was on, I did have to take a moment cause I started balling my eyes out, of course,” she said.

Lottie declined to give her last name for this story to protect her husband, but nonetheless, she’s excited to finally get the chance to see him again.

She wrote messages almost every day to the governor the last several months, urging him to reconsider the visitation policy. She’s not happy with how the state handled prisons during the pandemic.  

“I can’t pin it on Governor Beshear because he can’t be everywhere at once. He’s a single person,” Lottie said. “But I think that going forward, there needs to be policy changes about how do we handle a situation like this.”

That includes how inmates were prioritized in the vaccine rollout, with prisons only receiving doses in early April.  

“That was upsetting, and that was when I started getting disappointed in the governor because he is very much a family man, you see that everyday on social media, but it felt like our families didn’t matter,” she said.

Lottie still has some questions about how visitations will work, but she’ll be glad when she can finally see her husband face-to-face.  

“Having a loved one in prison is hard because you can talk to them on the phone everyday and they can tell you that they’re fine, but until you see them — like when I would walk in there on a Saturday morning and physically see him and see that he was OK — I could breathe a sigh of relief because I was like, ok, he is actually OK.”

Some families of inmates disagree with the vaccine requirement for visitations. Mekayla Breland said she’s happy she’ll finally get the chance to see her fiancee.

“I think it is absurd we have to be vaccinated to see our loved ones,” Breland said. “We shouldn’t have to make a medical decision to see the people we care about most,”

Breland said if people are vaccinated, they should be allowed to actually hug their loved ones, which still won’t be allowed when visitations begin again.

It’s been more than 450 days since families could see inmates in-person.

Beshear and the Kentucky Department of Corrections wanted to vaccinate 80 percent of inmates before allowing in-person visits. On Tuesday, Beshear reported 76% have received a dose.

The Kentucky DOC will start allowing people to sign up for visitations June 4.

The new policy only applies to state-run facilities. County jails and federal prisons have their own rules.