(LEX 18) — Families of inmates incarcerated in Kentucky state prisons have the week of June 20 circled on their calendars, counting down the days until in-person visits can resume for the first time since March 2020.
"I can't explain how it feels," said Stefanie, whose husband is housed in a state prison in Kentucky. "It's amazing."
Stefanie, who lives in Detroit with their two children, asked LEX 18 not to disclose her last name or identify her husband, out of fear of retaliation.
Governor Andy Beshear announced Tuesday that facilities operated by the Department of Corrections (DOC) and Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) will resume in-person visitation beginning the week of June 20.
Vaccinated family and friends are required to schedule a visit prior to arrival. Available visitation dates and times will be published online on June 4.
All visitors must provide proof of a completed COVID-19 vaccination card and are required to wear a mask and practice social distancing inside the facility.
Stefanie has not been in the same room as her husband in about two years.
"Finally there's an answer and there's a date when I have the opportunity to see him again," she said.
Stefanie said her husband became sick with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 in February of 2020, but due to the lack of available testing at the time, he was never diagnosed with COVID-19.
Although he recovered, the anxiety and fear lingered.
"He was really scared," Stefanie recalled. "He was afraid that he was never going to make it out."
Stefanie channeled her own anxiety into action, joining forces with other families of inmates to apply pressure on the governor through protests, social media campaigns, and letters.
She was one of the driving forces behind a Twitter account called "KY Inmate Families," which regularly published posts criticizing the governor's approach in handling COVID-19 in prisons.
Most recently, the focus of the tweets has been on visitations.
"It shouldn't have taken this long for [Beshear] to understand that they're people as well and they have families," Stefanie said.
In his announcement Tuesday, the governor alluded to his hesitation thus far to resume visitations.
"This is a setting where if there is a COVID outbreak, we have seen that it can be devastating," Beshear said. "So we are taking precautions while still opening up visitations."
According to the administration, 76% of adult inmates housed in state facilities have been vaccinated.