Prison Visitation Guide

Use this website for informational purposes only.

Whereas there is no law granting the federal constitutional right for inmate visitation, most prisons in the US permit relatives and friends to visit offenders serving time within their facilities. This step helps prisoners to maintain close ties with their close families and the outside community, hence, lowering the likelihood of recidivism. Then, are you visiting an inmate for the first time? Do you know the guidelines available on how to visit a federal prison inmate? This prison visitation guide seeks to clarify all the aspects of inmate visitation in the United States. That way, you can comply with the procedures and stay in touch with the detainee. Here is the guide:

Types of Inmate Visits

Do you know how to visit a federal prison inmate? Well, inmates in the United States prison system enjoy different types of visits under different circumstances as follows: –

  • Contact Visits

These visits involve the prisoner meeting the visitor and enjoying limited physical contact between them. Here, the inmate may hug, offer a brief kiss, or hold hands with the visitor at the beginning and end of the visit. Contact visits take place in open visiting areas with ample tables and chairs shared with other inmates and visitors. An inmate can receive up to 5 visitors at a time for an unlimited duration as per the visiting hours set by the prison administration. Most inmates receiving contact visits are low-security prisoners in the general population.

  • Non-contact Visits

Non-contact visits involve an inmate and visitor meeting where a booth or glass partition separates them from any physical contact. Here, up to 3 visitors can meet the inmate at a time for one to two hours as permitted by the prison officials. Prisoners taking part in non-contact visits are either recently admitted inmates or those under segregation. The inmates are escorted from their security housing units, behavioral management units, administrative segregations, or adjustment centers to the meeting are while in handcuffs. The escorting staff then secures the inmate in the visiting booth before removing the handcuffs. Likewise, any visitor accompanied by a minor is advised to wait away from the booth until the inmate is secured to shield the child from seeing the prisoner in restraints.

  • Family Visits

Family visits occur between the inmate and their immediate family members as per the approved visitors’ list. Here, a parent, child, sibling, legal spouse, or registered domestic partner may meet the inmate in a private, apartment-like visiting area for 30 to 40 hours. These visits take place once after three to five months, subject to availability of the meeting prison grounds. The prisoner has to apply for the family visit in good time.

  • Conjugal Visits

Conjugal visits are extended family visits currently available in the State of New York, California, Washington, and Connecticut. Only, these visits are prohibited in federal prisons. Inmates have to be in a medium or lower security prisons. Plus, the prisoners must undergo mandatory medical screening before the visit. Extended family visits are available for 6, 12, or 24 hours at a time. They take place in private, apartment-style rooms with ample supplies of beddings, towels, condoms, and soap.

Eligibility of Prisoners to Taking Part in Visits

All prisoners are eligible for visitation unless they are under disciplinary action. Further, inmates on Death Row may take part in either contact visits or non-contact visits depending on their current security risk and disciplinary action.

A prisoner may not take part in a visitation schedule while on school or work hours unless it is an emergency visit or after obtaining special written permission for Excused Time Off from their supervisors.

Prisoners serving time for charges involving a minor may not be allowed visitations involving an adult and a minor. Hence, visitors should always confirm the inmate’s criminal history and its implications before scheduling a visit.

In times of medical quarantines, prisoners in the quarantined housing units shall not take part in any planned visitation.

A prisoner under a lockdown or modified program poses a threat to the safety of staff, visitors, and other inmates. The two measures may affect a specific group of inmates or a particular area in the detention facility. During an active lockdown or modified program, no inmate from the affected area or group shall be allowed access to any visitation.

Hospitalized prisoners shall only receive special visits from immediate family members when facing critical injuries or life-threatening illnesses.

Persons Allowed Visiting an Inmate

Each prison has the freedom to decide who can visit an inmate at any particular time. The visitors may include:

  • Immediate family members, relatives, and friends as per the approved members’ list
  • Sponsors
  • Religious leaders
  • Attorneys
  • Employers

The Steps

1.       Locating the Prisoner

If you suspect that your friend or loved one is held at a state prison or county jail, you can locate their whereabouts by inquiring directly to the local jail administration. Second, you can use an online inmate locator available at your local Sheriff’s Office website. Here, you can search for the inmate using their full names, age, gender, booking number, inmate number, or arrest details.

The search results indicate the inmate’s full names and aliases, date of arrest, nature of the offense committed, current location, date of sentencing, expected date of release, or when the inmate shall be eligible for parole. Knowing the inmate’s current location and prison status will assist you in knowing if you can visit the inmate and then send your application to the right address.

2.       Making a Formal Inmate Visitation Application

Preparing to visit an inmate entails:

  • Filling the Inmate Visitation Application Forms

Here, the prisoner sends out the visitors’ application forms for you to fill. Once you get them, you are to fill them accurately and legibly, and then sending them back via mail to the inmate or specified mailing address where the inmate is housed. The county jail visitation form may request for the applicant to state their history of criminal convictions and arrests even where an arrest led to no conviction or charge. Any incomplete or inaccurate forms may deny you the chance for visitation.

  • Approval, Notification, And Listing As An Approved Visitor

It takes one to six weeks to process the inmate application forms, depending on the volume of applications received and the number of staff tasked to review them. Plus, the prison officials need to carry out a background check on the applicant, which can take time. Hence, plan to make your application in good time. If your application is successful, the prison officials shall notify the prisoner, who then notifies you of the approval. Next, the applicant shall be included in the inmate’s approved members list.

  • Grounds For Disapproval

A visitation application may be denied if:-

  • The application is inaccurate or incomplete
  • Additional information is required
  • The applicant is considered a security or safety risk
  • There is an outstanding warrant of arrest against the applicant
  • The applicant is currently on probation
  • The applicant is free on bond and awaiting a pending court hearing
  • The applicant has a protective order against the prisoner
  • The applicant is the inmate’s victim
  • The applicant was recently released from prison

Where the application is disapproved, the prison officials shall notify both the prisoner and the applicant. However, only the applicant will know the reasons for the disapproval via a return mail. The applicant can then reapply with additional information or accurate and complete information. Likewise, the applicant can appeal the denial in writing to the warden in charge. The warden is to respond to the appeal within 15 working days of receiving the appeal.

Note that, an applicant may be allowed to see an inmate without formal approval in the event of a hardship or emergency visit. Still, such decisions are at the discretion of the prison officials.

3.       The Visit

  • Visitation Days and Hours

Each prison in the United States is free to set its visiting days and hours. Most of these visits take place on all days of the week, excluding holidays. The prison administration segments the visits during the working hours to cater to all inmates. Plus, they minimize the duration of the visit during the rush hours. If you plan to visit an inmate, call the visitors’ information number where the inmate is located to confirm the dates and timings of your scheduled visit. Or, you can check for updates on the prison’s official website. Then, schedule your visit at least a day in advance and arrive at least 15 minutes before the scheduled visiting time.

  • What to Wear

Every prison has strict guidelines regarding the visitors’ dress code. Hence, confirm the appropriate attire by checking the state laws as listed on the corrections department‘s official website.

  • What to Bring

When visiting an inmate, carry your valid, government-issued photo ID for identification purposes. For security purposes, all visitors are searched before and after a scheduled visit. Here, the prison staff ensures that you do not carry any item prohibited at the institution. Such items include phones and recording devices, electronic devices, cigarettes, drugs, weapons, chemicals, over the counter medicine, alcohol, money, prohibited publications, and matches. Familiarize yourself with the comprehensive list of permissible and prohibited items a day or two before the scheduled visit.

  • Visiting with Minors

All visitors must be at least 18 years of age. Still, some correctional institutions permit an adult to be accompanied by a minor provided the adult can prove that he/she is the parent or legal guardian to the child.

  • Video Visitations

If the detention facility has measures in place to allow for video visitation, you should check and sign up for the upcoming visit in good time. Here, family members who find it hard to visit an inmate in person can now interact with them via a scheduled video call. To take part, ensure that the prisoner has added you to the approved members’ list before you book the video visit. Then, create an account; have it confirmed before booking your slot. You may use your PC, laptop, or android phone for the video call.

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