Visiting Hours in American Correctional Facilities

Visiting Hours in American Correctional Facilities 

Inmate visitation is an essential aspect of American correctional facilities. Visiting your loved ones can provide a sense of connection, emotional support, and a reminder of the outside world. As a result, the inmate is likely to have a successful rehabilitation period, and it will also reduce the likelihood of recidivism.  

However, the policies and procedures around visitation can vary widely from facility to facility and can often be challenging to navigate. For this reason, this article will comprehensively cover inmate visitation and visitation hours, including the various policies and procedures.  

The Role of Visitation in Rehabilitation 

Maintaining familial connections is essential for an inmate’s successful incarceration and community reentry. Inmates who maintain such strong relationships are more likely to find employment and stable housing and avoid future involvement in the criminal justice system. Conversely, if your loved ones lack such a relationship, they will likely face significant challenges upon release.  

Visitation also provides a sense of normalcy and a reminder of life outside of prison, which helps mitigate the effects of isolation and dehumanization. For instance, children visiting parents can remind them of their role and motivate them to make positive changes in their lives. Similarly, adult visitors can provide updates on life outside of prison, offering hope for a future beyond incarceration. 

Visitation Policies and Procedures 

Visitation policies and procedures vary widely between correctional facilities, but most offer some form of in-person and/or video visitation. Typically, in-person visits involve physically presenting yourself to the facility at the designated visitation area.  

On the other hand, video visitations involve communicating with your loved one through a secure video conferencing system, typically via a computer or mobile device. This type of visitation provides greater flexibility and convenience, as you can communicate with the inmate from any location.  

In-Person Visitations VS Video Visitations  

In-person and video visitations are effective strategies for staying connected with your loved one. However, there are some advantages and disadvantages associated with both options. For instance, in-person visits allow for physical contact, providing a sense of connection and comfort. You also get the chance to see your loved one’s living conditions and better understand their daily life.  

However, in-person visits can be subject to more restrictions and require more planning and travel. Failure to book an early appointment will result in denial of entry into the facility, which can be disappointing.  

On the other hand, video visitations are more convenient and flexible as you don’t have to go to the facility. They also provide a safer communication environment, as they eliminate the risk of physical altercations or the introduction of contraband.  

But video visits are also subject to limitations and downsides. For example, they lack the emotional impact and personal connection that in-person visits provide. Moreover, technical difficulties and internet issues can affect the visit’s quality, resulting in frustrations. Lastly, video visits are subject to additional fees, which can burden families already facing financial challenges.  

Who is Eligible for Visitations? 

Typically, you are eligible to see an incarcerated loved one if your name appears on the approved visitation list. Inmates draft this list upon admission into the Federal Bureau of Prisons or State Department of Corrections custody. Afterward, the inmates will forward the list to the administration for approval.  

Notably, some facilities limit the number of people who can be on the list to 12 names. However, the list is adjustable after a specified duration, usually two weeks, where the inmate gets to remove or add names.  

What Can You Do If You Aren’t on the List? 

Depending on the facility, you may have various options if you wish to be on an inmate’s visitation list. The best option is to write to the inmate and request them to add you when they get the chance to adjust the list. Alternatively, you can wait for an inmate’s phone call and make the request.  

However, for some facilities, including those under the BOP’s custody, you must fill out a visitation request form. Then, authorities will review your application and get back to you with information on denial or approval.  

Factors that Determine Whether Your Name Will be on the Approved Visitation List 

Several factors will come into play when determining visitation request approval. One of them is the relationship between the visitor and the inmate. Immediate family members, such as spouses, children, and parents, may have a higher likelihood of approval than distant friends.  

Another factor is your criminal history. Authorities will perform a background check to determine if you have criminal histories or outstanding warrants. If so, the facility will deny your visitation request. Note that some facilities may deny you access if you have a history of drug or alcohol abuse.  

Other factors include: 

  • Health and Medical Conditions: The facility will not approve names of people with contagious diseases like COVID-19.  
  • Past Incarceration: Some facilities may consider your past incarceration when determining eligibility for visitation.  
  • Conduct during Prior Visits: If you have a history of violating facility rules or causing disruptions during prior visits, the facility will restrict your visitation privileges. 

Inmate Visitation Hours  

Guidelines regarding visitation hours vary from facility to facility, state to state, and county to county. Inmate classification, incarceration period, and inmate age also determine visitation hours.  

In some facilities, visitation hours may be limited or restricted based on the facility’s security level. High-security prisons may have more limited visitation hours, and visitors may be subject to additional security measures.  

In other cases, visitation may be limited based on the availability of staff and resources. Some facilities may not have enough staff or space to accommodate frequent visitation or may prioritize visitation for certain inmates based on their needs.  

Despite these variations, the standard visitation timeline in most facilities is between 8 am and 10 pm. This duration gives you a wide range of opportunities to schedule visits and allows your loved one to have regular access to visitors.  

Due to these variations, you must check with the specific facility for confirmation, as they may be subject to modification. Additionally, some facilities may offer alternative visitation options, such as extended or overnight visits, for exceptional circumstances. 

Why Would an Inmate be Denied Visitation? 

There are several reasons why an inmate may be denied visitation. They include the following: 

Disciplinary Issues 

Authorities closely monitor inmate behavior, and any violations of facility rules or regulations can result in disciplinary action, including the loss of visitation privileges.  

Violations may involve engaging in disruptive behavior like physical altercations or property damage. Additionally, sneaking in contraband falls under this category, and one of the consequences is the denial of visitation privileges.  

Notably, disciplinary issues can have lasting consequences for inmates’ well-being and rehabilitation. As such, you must constantly remind your loved ones to prioritize their behavior and adhere to facility rules and regulations. This can involve taking steps to manage stress and frustration, engaging in positive activities and programs, and building positive relationships with staff and other inmates.  

Security Concerns 

The safety and security of the facility, staff, inmates, and visitors are top priorities. As a result, any suspicion of potential danger coming from within and outside world will result in the revocation of visitations.  

Such security concerns include the following: 

  • Gang Activity: Correctional facilities may restrict visitation to prevent gang-related activities, such as passing messages or recruiting new members. 
  • Prevalence of Contraband: This is one of the top reasons for visitation denial. Some family members and inmate friends may use the privilege to bring contraband items like drugs, weapons, or cell phones. Such acts may jeopardize the safety and well-being of other inmates and staff members.  
  • Escapes: In some cases, facilities may restrict visits to prevent inmates from attempting to escape or to prevent visitors from aiding in an escape attempt. 

Legal Restrictions 

Legal restrictions are another reason your incarcerated loved one cannot receive visitors. They may arise due to various legal issues related to the inmate’s case or court orders.  

Such restrictions include the following: 

  • Protective Orders: A protective order is where the judge rules that an inmate must stay away from certain people, usually crime victims. In such a case, you’ll not have the chance to see the inmate.  
  • Pending Legal Proceedings: If the inmate is awaiting trial or has an ongoing legal case, they may have restrictions on visitation. Such restrictions include limited hours or only being able to receive visits from their legal representation. 

Hours before Inmate Visitation 

Most facilities require you to book a visitation appointment at least 48 hours before the scheduled date. The method of booking such appointments varies from facility to facility. For instance, you can book a visitation appointment for county jails via the sheriff’s office or its website.  

On the other hand, state and federal prisons provide designated methods, usually a phone number. Others will allow you to book via email or website. 

Notably, some facilities may have different visitation schedules for weekdays and weekends. So, check with the facility in advance to understand these scheduling requirements.  

If you book an appointment and realize you won’t make it, you must cancel it in advance. Failure to do so will result in the following: 

  • Penalization  
  • Denial of Future Visitations  

What Happens During the Visiting Hours? 

You must arrive at least 15 minutes before the scheduled time on the visitation day. However, this timeline varies from facility to facility, as some of them may require you to arrive at least 20 minutes.  

This early arrival allows correctional officers to conduct frisks and searches at the facility’s entrance. Doing so is necessary to prevent the introduction of contraband. The screening process may take the form of metal detectors, X-ray machines, and/or pat-down searches.  

You will also have to present valid photo identification documents before entering the particular facility. Such documents include: 

  • State-Issued ID 
  • Military ID 
  • Driver’s License  
  • Passport  

Children must be in the company of an adult and may be required to present a birth certificate as proof of relationship to the inmate.  

Afterward, you will receive a visitor’s consent form outlining all visitation rules, and you must sign it.  

Are there Medical Items You can Bring during Visitation Hours? 

The specific rules and regulations regarding medical items may vary from facility to facility. However, in most cases, you can bring prescribed EpiPens and inhalers, but with approval from the facility’s medical practitioner.  

For medical devices like eyeglasses, you must have prior approval from the facility’s medical staff. Primarily, most facilities prefer plastic ones. If your loved one wears contact lenses, the facility will withhold them until an optometrist determines the specific inmate’s needs.  

Personal Conduct during the Visitation Period 

Visiting an incarcerated loved one can be a stressful and emotional experience. However, you must understand that you’re the guest and must conduct yourself respectfully and appropriately.  

Here are some guidelines to keep in mind: 

  • Follow the facility’s rules and guidelines: Every facility has its own rules and guidelines for visitors, including dress codes, behavior expectations, and contraband restrictions. Familiarize yourself with these rules in advance and comply with them during your visit. 
  • Be respectful and courteous: You must respect the facility staff, other inmates, and visitors. Avoid using foul language, engaging in disruptive or inappropriate behavior, or being confrontational.  
  • Avoid discussing sensitive topics: Some of the sensitive issues you mustn’t discuss with your loved one include your loved one’s criminal acts. In some cases, staff members may monitor the visits, record the conversations, and use them against your loved one in court.  
  • Avoid physical contact: Depending on the facility’s rules and guidelines, you may be restricted from physical contact with the inmate. Such contacts include hugging and shaking hands,  

How to Know if a Loved One Can Receive Visitors  

To determine if your loved one is eligible for visitation, you should contact the specific correctional facility. It will have a designated point of contact, such as a visitation coordinator, who can provide information about the facility’s visitation policies and procedures. 

Alternatively, you can perform a county, state, or federal inmate search to establish the inmate’s location. Then, the additional information on the website may highlight whether the inmate is eligible to receive visitors.