When an inmate is in a city or county jail or a state or federal prison, the support system of their friends and families are a vital part of their rehabilitation process.
Many jails and prisons throughout the United States will allow inmates to have a certain number of visits with their loved ones, but when it comes down to visiting, visitors and inmates will have to follow strict guidelines.
Before you head out to the facility where the inmate is currently serving out their time, you will want to read through everything you need to know about visiting an inmate on the inside.
What to Know Before Visitation?
Before you can visit an inmate at any facility, there are many things you will need to know and do prior to coming to the facility.
If these things are not done or known before going to the facility, you may be turned away. This is what you do not want to happen, especially if you are traveling a long distance.
Visitation is a Privilege Not a Right
Many families and friends believe that visitation is a right and not a privilege. Here in any institution, visitation is always a privilege. Visitation is earned. Visitation can be taken away at any moment without any reason why.
Visitation will only be permitted in ALL institutions for inmates who show good behavior. Inmates who are in isolation for an infraction will not be permitted visitors until they do the time and get released back into the general population.
However, in most institutions inmates in segregation will have the opportunity to visit with their family and friends. It will depend on what level of segregation they are in. The levels of segregation are as follows:
- Extreme Isolation: Inmates who are in extreme isolation will not be permitted visitors. They are only seen by correctional officers less than 3 times a day. The times they are seen by correctional officers is when they are delivered their meals.
- Middle Isolation: Inmates who are in middle degree isolation typically will not be permitted to have visitors as well. However, unlike with the extreme isolation inmates, these inmates will see correctional officers more frequently.
- Restrictive Isolation: Inmates who are in restrictive isolation will be permitted to have visitors in most institutions. These inmates will have more freedom than the above two isolation inmates. These inmates will be segregated from the general population inmates. Most of the time these inmates are in protective custody, sex offenders, or this housing status fits their needs than the general population.
Get a Copy of Visitation Hours
Before you even think about heading down to the institution, you will want to get the latest copy of the visitation hours. Visitation hours can and will change at the institution. It is always best to contact the institution prior to you planning a visit out here to ensure that you have the most up to date hours. It also does not hurt to contact the institution to ensure that they are in fact holding a visitation on the day you plan on being there.
Find Out if You Need to be on a Visitor List
Many institutions now are requiring inmates to put their loved ones on a visitation list when they go through the booking and processing steps when being admitted into the facility.
Prior to an inmate going to the institution, ensure that they have this following information on you:
- First & Last Name
- Date of Birth
- Telephone Number
- Relationship to the Inmate
If an inmate does not have this information, they will not be permitted to add you to the list. You will be able to have the inmate add you to the list afterward.
Keep in mind that everyone visiting an inmate will be required to be on this inmate list. All adults will be required to be on this list. Minors will not typically be required to be on the list for many institutions.
Get a Copy of the Visitation Guidelines
The visitation guidelines will be the bible of visiting an inmate while they are behind bars. These guidelines will go over everything from if you need to be on the visitation list, when visitation is, what is expected of you, how you should dress, and what you should not be bringing with you inside the facility.
If for any reasons, you do not follow the guidelines, or you act unprofessionally, the institution will have the right to not permit you visitation with an inmate. It is vital to read the guidelines prior to heading to the institution.
Know if You Need to Make an Appointment
A lot of institutions now are having you create an appointment to visit an inmate. They are no longer allowing you to come during visitation hours and walk-in to visit an inmate. They require visitation to be by appointment only.
It is best to contact the institution to see if you are free to walk-in or if you need an appointment.
Know What Type of Visitation is Available
With us being in the 21st century, visitation in many institutions now is no-contact. A no-contact visitation is where you will be visiting the inmate either from the comfort of your own home or in another room of the institution using video chat. These visitations are strictly over video chat. You will not be permitted to hug or see the inmate in the flesh.
However, there are still many institutions that have contact visits, where you will be permitted to hug the inmate at the beginning and end of the visit.
Some institutions offer both types of visits to allow friends and families from afar have a visit with the inmate as well.
What to Know While Visiting
Now that you have finally made it on the visitor list and you are about to see the inmate, you will want to ensure you keep these things in mind, so you have a successful visit.
Leave All Items in Your Vehicle
When visiting any institution, they are a stickler for anything and everything. You are only permitted to bring in your car key, just your car key, leave your other keys and key ring in your vehicle.
Some institutions may allow you to bring in some cash under $20 to use either at the commissary or the vending machines.
Please do not try and get one over on the correctional officers. Everyone entering the facility will be thoroughly searched to ensure that there is no contraband coming into the facility.
If you refuse to be searched, you will NOT be permitted to visit an inmate.
Mothers of infants will be permitted to bring in one bottle of formula, diaper, and wipes for their baby.
Don’t Be Touchy Feely
Correctional officers will not go for you being touchy feely with the inmate. While an inmate is in custody of the institution, they will be not be permitted to display any form of public display of affection.
Most institutions that have contact visits will permit the inmate and their visitors to give a brief hug at the beginning of the visit and at the end of the visit. Other than that, inmates will be allowed to hold hands, give kisses, or anything of that nature.
While you are in the institution, you will need to act very professionally. If you are rowdy and obnoxious you will be not be allowed to visit the inmate, or you will be asked to leave early. If you are bringing children in the institution with you, you will need to make sure they behave, or you will be asked to leave as well.
Every institution is a stickler for ensuring everyone and everything is respected thoroughly. To maintain your privilege of visiting the inmate for long-term, you will want to conduct yourself in a professional manner.
Choose to Wear Semi Business Casual Attire
While visiting an inmate, you cannot just wear anything. There is a strict dress code that you should have been made aware of in the visitation handbook. Many clothing will not be accepted. You should refrain from wearing any of the following:
- See-Through Clothing
- Tank Tops
- Sexual in Nature Sayings on Clothing
- Booty Shorts
- Crop Tops
- Bathing Suits
- Sleeveless Garments
- Low Cut Dresses
- Low Cut Blouses
- Clothing that looks like inmate clothing
If you are wearing any of these clothing while you are signing in to visit an inmate, you will not be permitted inside the visitation room. The correctional officers will turn you away. It does not matter if you traveled very far to visit an inmate, they will not permit you in.
You must follow this dress code exactly. It is best to only wear clothing that would be acceptable to wear while you are interviewing for a job. If you would not wear that to an interview, you should not be wearing that to a visit with an inmate.
Have Your Identification Card Readily Available?
Before you can enter the room to visit the inmate, you will be required to check in. All institutions will require you to have some form of photo identification. Most accepted forms of identification can be the following:
- Driver’s License
- State Identification Card
- United States Passport
- School Identification Card (for minors)
For children and infants, most institutions will only require them to have a school identification card, if old enough.