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In the wake of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, many U.S. prisons have suspended prisoner visits by family, friends, and loved ones to prevent its transmission and spread. This measure is reported to be a very important step relating to prison visitation information as many prisons may update their visiting rules when visitation resumes, and the loved ones of inmates can see their incarcerated loved ones again.

 

Due to suspended visits because of COVID-19, the family, friends, and loved ones of prisoners may be feeling nervous, anxious, and concerned about the safety of their incarcerated loved one. According to the Bureau of Prisons, measures have been implemented to protect prisoners. At some point, visitation to inmates will resume so here is information that could help you increase your chances of having a good visit.

 

Do you have a friend or loved one in prison whom you’d love to visit? If it’s your first time, you may find the whole experience tricky and full of hurdles. If you don’t get a hang of the rules early enough, you just might be prevented from visiting the inmate in question. But not to worry. This article will address any questions you may have about the rules and guidelines of visiting prisons. Want to find out more about prison visitation rules? Read on.


The Different Types of Prison Visits


Before you start learning about the rules guiding prison visits, it is important to note that there are different types of visits. The mode of visitation could differ based on the region, crime committed, circumstances, and the prison in question. Here are the major types of prison visits:


·        Open visits: These kinds of visits are quite common across different regions. Here, you can visit an inmate without any form of physical barriers. However, it is usually closely supervised by a guard or prison official.


·       Closed visits: You’ve probably seen an instance of closed prison visits in movies or animations. In closed visits, a physical barrier (usually a glass partition) is placed between you and the inmate.


·        Video visits/visitation: In this type of prison visit, visitors communicate with the inmate through virtual technology. Here, you can visit the inmate via video. However, this type of visitation takes longer to process and may come with more restrictions and rules. During this COVID-19 coronavirus, video visits may become more prevalent or possibly the norm.



Visiting an Inmate: What Do You Do?


If you are planning to visit an inmate in prison, it is important to note that you can’t just show up at the prison. There are preparatory steps to take as well as things to expect. Let’s look at some of them.


Pre-Visitation Preparation


Before you visit an inmate, it is a good idea to let the inmate in question know about your visitation plans. This is usually done through their allotted phone calls or through written letters. You can also sign up to use JPay to email your incarcerated loved one in some prisons to discuss visitation plans.


For the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, with little exception, anyone can visit as long as it is during visiting hours, the visitor has proper identification, and the individual visited agrees to the visit. Make sure you know how many visitors may visit at one time because each facility is different. All visitors are required to sign a statement indicating that they have been advised of and agree to abide by the rules and regulations regarding visiting.


In most prisons – for example, The Illinois Department of Corrections – each inmate is required to have a visitors list. A visitor’s list typically contains the full names and information about visitors who can visit. In some facilities, the maximum number of people who can visit one inmate is 10. However, in other facilities, it could be more or less.


Some facilities, such as the California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation, require potential visitors to fill out a visitor’s application, which may either be approved or denied. Basically, a visitor’s application is a signed questionnaire which contains some personal questions that will guide the facility’s decision. When filling out this application, it is important to answer every question truthfully because false answers could get your application denied.


If your application is approved, you are then considered eligible for visitation. However, you can’t just show up when you want to. You need to find out the facility’s visitation hours and then choose a time and date that fits right into the prison’s schedule.



What to Expect When Visiting


If you made it past the application stage, then congratulations! However, it is important to remember to take a valid form of identification with you. Most facilities won’t let you in without an approved form of identification such as an ID card or a driver’s license.


When you get to the facility, it is a good idea to wash your hands. This may protect inmates, staff, and you from getting sick and reduce the spread of germs.


You may be searched. Don’t feel bad about it. The search process is mainly for security reasons and to protect the interests of the inmates and the facility as well. Your car may be searched at any gates. You may undergo a second search process when you enter the facility.


Usually, visitors are searched using metal detectors, manual processes, and even by dogs. Visitors must consent to be searched unless they want to lose their visiting privileges.


If you show up with prohibited items, weapons or drugs, you will be banned from visiting and possibly face criminal charges relating to the smuggling of illegal contraband. Hard substances, drugs, and outside food are highly-prohibited in most facilities.



Can I Bring a Minor to Visit?


If you’re a parent with kids below the ages of 18, this is a very valid question. If you want to visit an inmate with your children, you may need to sign a special form known as the minor’s authorization form. This form will let you visit with your child. However, in some facilities, your child may need to come with a means of identification if they are above the age of 14.


It is important to note that in some cases, you may not be allowed to visit with a minor whether you sign the special form or not. This usually occurs if the inmate is behind bars for child-related crimes such as pedophilia or child abuse.


Some prisons have play areas for children to help keep them occupied during visits. Generally, parents who visit with minors are advised to watch their children closely and ensure that they behave appropriately.


What to Bring When Visiting


Generally, you don’t need to bring a lot of items during visitation. Just grab your ID and some cash for vending machine items, if you want to. You can put cash inside of a clear sandwich bag.


What Can I Wear to Visit?


A lot of facilities have differing dress codes. However, some rules are general across all facilities. When visiting an inmate, it is advisable not to wear uniforms of any sort. In the same vein, avoid wearing outfits that are like the inmates’ or staff uniforms.


Avoid revealing clothes or clothes that may be offensive. In general, you could wear something casual but appropriate such as a t-shirt and a pair of jeans. It is a good idea to check the prison website of the facility you wish to visit for the appropriate dress code.


Many facilities have lockers that you can place your keys and coat or jacket inside before your visit. In some facilities, if you decide to wear a coat or jacket during the visit, you will have to keep it on during the entire visit or place it in a locker. Always wash your hands after using the restroom or before you leave.



What if You Aren’t Allowed to Visit?


If you signed a visitor’s application and it was denied, its denial could be because you provided false information, or you have a criminal record. It could also be tied to some other reasons. However, you may be able to contest this denial/rejection at the facility level or in court.


If you are denied entry at the facility, then you probably violated some of the facility’s rules and regulations. As such, it is important to pay close attention to the rules governing each facility and behave accordingly.


Conclusion


Different prison facilities have different rules governing visitations. However, some rules are general or specific to a facility or applies to all facilities. Want to visit your loved ones in prison? Follow the facility guidelines properly and you’ll most likely be seeing your loved ones in no time at all!


For more incarceration-related information and updates about the COVID-19 coronavirus, visit the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Be sure to conduct your own research for the jail or prison facility in your state pertaining to visitation policies and procedures and COVID -19 coronavirus.


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