How to Prepare for Visiting Your Loved One in Prison
It’s really difficult to prepare for visiting your loved one in prison because each time could be a little different depending on the facility rules and interpretation by the guards. What will help you prepare is to be ready to expect anything.
When you arrive at the facility you may need to wait in line to be processed in. When you visit your loved one, the facility may require sign in, fingerprint recognition, walking through a metal detector, and/or but not limited to body search. You are subject to searches both prior to and after you visit your loved one.
The facility staff will let you know what you can bring into the visiting area. There may be a locker assigned to you to store your personal items or you may be asked to lock it in your car. It is a good idea to bring a clear container (purse or bag) for the items you can bring into the visiting area.
If you have doctor prescribed medications you should let the guard know that you are storing them in the locker and what time you need to take them. Only bring in what you will need.
Know the Rules for Visiting Your Loved One in Prison
Know the rules for the facility that you are visiting when it comes to how close you can be to your loved one. Some facilities allow a hug and kiss, others will allow you to hold hands, others do not allow any physical contact. Also know that different facility staff may interpret the rules differently so if you are warned once not to have so much contact such as hugging too long, listen to them because it could be cause for you to lose your visitation rights (along with apparent reasons like contraband).
There is also the possibility that there will be assigned seating or that you need to sit on a specific side of the visiting table. This would typically be so that the inmate would sit on the side of the table that can be monitored by the guards or cameras.
Know What You can Bring When Visiting a Loved One in Prison
There is typically a limit to the amount of money you can bring into the visiting area, and whether you can bring bills and/or change. There may be a commissary and/or vending machines to purchase food and drink. It’s best to bring smaller bills and change (whichever is allowed). Eating together is a great activity to share when you visit your loved one and it gives them an opportunity to have foods they may not have access too otherwise.
Visiting with Minors
Minors must be accompanied by an adult for visitation. You may be required to bring the minor’s birth certificate, depending on his/her age. Minors must be under control of the adults. There are typically cards or some type of games for children and adults that may be in a central area, or need to be checked out. It is advisable to select games for your visit as soon as you arrive.
Check with the facility that you are visiting for requirements on documentation for the minor(s) that you are bringing with you.
Important Visitation Information When Traveling Long Distances
If you are traveling long distances to visit, check with the facility, typically the warden, if you would like extended visitation, e.g. dates or times other than typical visitation dates. If possible, contact the prison prior to starting your travel to ensure that your loved one is still at the prison and confirm they are not currently in lock down. Keep in mind they may not be able to tell you if your loved one is being transported (for security reasons). In addition, the facility may not be in lock down when you call, however be prepared that something could of occurred while you were traveling to cause the facility to require lock down. All this being said, it’s still good to check before you begin your journey.
Some prisons are located in very rural areas and you may not have a large selection of hotels. It may seem awkward, but try calling the local Department of Corrections or the facility inquiring about local accommodations while visiting your loved one. They may also know of transportation available that will make it easier for your visit. Sometimes it’s really difficult to drive after a visit.
For information on what to wear when visiting your loved one in prison go to: https://prisonthehiddensentence.com/helpful-information/prison-dress-code/
Read the “Your Voice” section for personal stories on visiting loved ones in prison.