Prison Visitation Guide: What to Expect

If it’s your first time visiting an inmate, here is everything you should expect and know.

When your loved one is in either prison or jail, they will need the support of their family and friends even more during this rehabilitation process. 

Most of the prison and jails in the United States have a limit of times that you can visit your loved one whether the limit is for the month, week, or day, there are strict guidelines you will need to follow if you would like to keep visiting the inmate on a regular basis. 

Before you head on down to the jail or prison your loved one is in, you will want to continue reading up on everything you will need to know to make your visit to the institution as easy and effortlessly as possible. 

Things to Know Before Visitation

Prior to visiting an inmate at any jail or prison, there will be a few things you should know. If you do not know these things prior to visiting, you may run the risk of being turned away. You do not want this to happen, especially, if you are not local to the facility you are going to be visiting an inmate at. 

Visitation is Not Right it is a Privilege 

What many people do not know is that visitation in a jail or a prison is not a right, it is 100-percent a privilege. The jail or prison has the right to refuse visitation on any ground for any person, at any time. Visitation in most jails and prisons is an earned privilege. The jail or prison can refuse visitation without having to give any reason why. 

For most facilities, only inmates who display good behavior will be permitted to have visits with their family and friends. Inmates who are currently with infractions or sitting in isolation, will not have the opportunity to visit with their family and friends. These inmates will have to wait until they are in good standing and back in general population before they will be permitted, visitors. 

Visitation Hours

Before you even head down to the jail or prison, you should call the facility and ask them for their visitation hours. Visitation hours do not always change, but it is always best to ensure you have the latest and most up to date visitation hours handy. You do not want to get to the facility and find out that they changed the visitation hours and you are there for no reason. 

Approved Visitor List

Many facilities in the United States are now making inmates have an approved visitor list. Having an approved visitor list is to ensure that inmates are only going to be influenced by the best possible people. 

You will need to contact the jail or the prison and see if they need you to be on an approved visitor list. If so, they will tell you how to get on it. Most of the time, the inmate will have to put you on the approved list, and they will be able to tell you once you have been accepted or rejected. 

You will need to make sure the inmate knows the following information about you, so they can put you on the approved list:

  • Your Full Name
  • Date of Birth
  • Telephone Number
  • Address
  • Relationship to the Inmate

If the inmate does not have all this above information, you will not be added to the list until the inmate collects all the required pieces of information. 

Also, you should know all adults (people over the age of 18) will be required to be on the approved list for them to visit. Children (people under the age of 18) are typically not required to be on the list for most facilities.

Visitation Guidelines

You can typically find the visitation guidelines in the inmate handbook. The visitation guidelines will be the bible when it comes to visiting an inmate behind bars. The visitation guidelines will go over everything you need to know from start to finish. 

Keep in the back of your mind that if you do not follow these guidelines, you can be at risk for losing the privilege of visiting an inmate. So, it is very crucial that you read the guidelines prior to your first visit with your loved one. 

Make an Appointment

A lot of prisons and jails are now doing visitation by appointment only. Many of them are leaning away from having visitation hours where you can walk-in during that specified time and visit an inmate. 

If you are unsure if the facility the inmate is in does either walk-in visitors or appointment only, it will be vital for you to contact them to find out. Most of the facilities will require you to make an appointment no later than 24 hours before you want to visit. 

Type of Visitation 

With technology advancing, most jails and prisons now offer two different types of visits. 

The first type of visit is becoming more popular in the jails and prisons, it is called the no-contact visit. A no-contact visit is where you can visit an inmate over video. Just as the name implies, you will not have any physical contact with the inmate. There are some facilities that will allow you to video chat with the inmate from the comfort of your own home using your own laptop and internet. While the other facilities will require you to come the facility to use their equipment to do a video chat with the inmate. 

The next type of visitation is contact visitation. Contact visitation is where you get to sit down face to face with the inmate. Here you will be able to huge the inmate and see them in the flesh rather than the computer screen. 

A lot of facilities throughout the United States are more leaning towards no-contact visits as it is safer for everyone involved. 

Things to Know While Visiting

Now, that you either are on the visitor list, know the hours to visit or have an appoint, you can officially begin the best part; visiting the inmate!

Leave All Items in Your Car

When going to a jail or a prison, the best rule of advice anyone could ever give you is to leave everything in your car. Do not take anything but your key, and your photo identification card with you. You will not need ANYTHING else while you are in the facility. 

You will be searched upon entering the facility. Your car will be searched upon entering the facility grounds as well. If you refuse to have your car or your person searched, you will be turned away. 

Touch is a No-No

When visiting an inmate, most facilities will allow you to give the inmate a brief hug at the beginning and the end of the visit. During the visit, you will not be permitted to touch the inmate. 

In the facility, public display of affection is completely off-limits. If you keep trying to touch the inmate, you will be asked to leave, and you will be at risk for losing your privilege to visit the inmate soon. 

Act Professional 

While you are visiting an inmate, you will need to act professionally. If you are obnoxious or rowdy, you will be asked to leave. You must understand that other people are also visiting their loved ones, and no one wants to be around a rowdy group of people. 

The facility will be strict on ensuring that everyone is respectful to one another. You will always want to maintain a professional manner while you are in the facility. 

Wear Business Casual Attire

When you are visiting an inmate, you need to be careful of what you are wearing. Every facility has its own strict dress code that you need to follow to ensure that you can successfully visit an inmate. You can find the dress code in the visitation handbook. Here is a list of clothing options that are NOT allowed: 

  • Bathing Suits
  • Booty Shorts
  • Clothing like inmate clothing
  • Crop Tops
  • Leotards
  • Low Cut Blouses
  • Low Cut Dresses
  • Miniskirts
  • See-through Clothing
  • Sexual in Nature Clothing
  • Sleeveless Garments
  • Spandex
  • Tank Tops

If you are dressed in any of the above pieces of clothing, you will be not be permitted to visit an inmate. The prison staff will refuse your visit for that very reason. 

Keep Your Identification Card Handy

Before you will be allowed to enter the visitor room, you will need to check-in with the prison officials. In order to check in to visit, you will need to have your photo identification card on you. The following is what prison officials will accept for your photo identification card: 

  • State Identification Card
  • Driver’s License
  • School Identification Card (minors only)
  • United States Passport

If you have a toddler or a child that is not school-age child, you will not need to supply an identification card for them.

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