Visitation can be one of the best parts of life for many people in prison. Having the chance to see your loved ones can make a sentence much more bearable. However, the visitation process can be confusing and stressful for both prisoners and their families.
To prepare for your sentence and ensure you get as much quality time with your family as possible, it’s essential to understand how visitation works. Understanding the process and what is required will help ease the stress of visiting with your loved ones. Every facility has its own rules, but the basic process is usually similar. Here’s what you need to know about visitation and what to expect when you first visit.
What Is Visitation?
Visitation is the legal term for allowing the loved ones of incarcerated people to see them during their sentences. People in jail or federal prison are usually allowed to receive visitors under strict conditions. This allows them to stay in contact with their family, maintain stronger bonds with their support network, and remain present in their loved ones’ lives.
The Emotional Impact of Visitation
You may or may not be interested in receiving visitation during your sentence. Some people simply do not want to deal with visitation because they want to serve their time without subjecting their family and friends to any further humiliation.
However, visitation is important to your loved ones as well. People who miss you while you’re away will appreciate the opportunity to see you in person, even if visitation is inconvenient. Even if you’re uncomfortable with the idea of people seeing you during your sentence, you may find that you enjoy visitation for the joy it brings your loved ones. At Liberty Advisors, we will help you develop a visitation strategy that works for you and the people who miss you.
Do You Have a Right to Visitors in State and Federal Prison?
Visitation isn’t a constitutionally protected right. However, many state and federal prison regulations state that prisons should permit visitation as long as it’s considered “safe.” Most prisoners may receive visitors if they follow the facility’s restrictions. These restrictions may include:
- Limits on the number of visitors. Many facilities only allow one prisoner to receive two to three visitors at a time to reduce crowding and security risks.
- Limits on the days and times of visits. Many locations have specified visitation days or hours. Visitors can only come at these times.
- Limits on the number of visitors you may have in a given period. You may only be allowed to receive a set number of visitors per month, but the specific number will depend on your facility.
- Limits on who may visit. Visitors may include close family and friends, attorneys, legal advisors, religious advisors, and other approved contacts. However, background checks will likely be completed on your potential visitors, and unapproved contacts may not visit. In particular, people with certain felony records or who have been previously incarcerated at an institution are unlikely to be permitted to visit.
- Behavior requirements. Prisoners may have their visitation rights temporarily revoked if they do not follow facility rules closely.
Of course, just like everything else, COVID-19 has affected many prisons’ visitation policies. While many locations are returning to normal, specific prisons may still have additional requirements. Your friends and family should check with your facility to understand exactly what to expect.
How Does Visitation Work?
Facility policies vary, but the typical process looks like this:
- The imprisoned person must submit a list of people who they would like to visit them.
- The list will be reviewed by prison staff and background checks will likely be conducted.
- The prison staff will provide the inmate with an approved visitation list. The list can be rolling – I.E., you can add or subtract people and so can the prison on an ongoing basis.
- Depending on what type of facility you are at, people on the list may be required to schedule a visitation appointment before the day they want to come. The request will be approved based on the facility’s capacity and schedule and the prisoner’s willingness to see them.
- On the day of the visit, visitors must arrive at the facility dressed appropriately and carrying a valid photo ID.
- Guests must meet the facility’s dress code. Wearing inappropriate clothing can cause guests to miss the visit window entirely if they need to change or purchase something else to wear.
- Depending on the facility, guests over 16 may have to go through a metal detector or be searched by prison staff for contraband.
- Cellphones and other electronics will be left with the prison staff or in locked compartments.
After the security process, the guests will be brought to the room where they can talk to their loved ones. The amount of contact available during these visits depends on the facility’s security level and the prison staff’s evaluation of whether the imprisoned person would pose a safety risk to visitors.
- Non-contact visits: The guests and the imprisoned person are separated by a pane of glass. They talk using phone receivers on either side of the panel. This is reserved for high-security facilities or prisoners who may pose a threat.
- Contact visits: Visitors and imprisoned people can sit with one another in a large, open room with prison staff supervision. Physical contact is to be kept to a minimum, however. This is the most common style of visitation, and it’s used for low-risk inmates and minimum-security facilities.
- Conjugal visits: Facilities in several state systems permit the legal spouse of an inmate to spend several hours alone with them in a private room.
Protect Your Visitation Rights
Having someone visit you in prison can make all the difference to your mental health. If you want to prepare your friends and family for visitation, you can work with an experienced prison consultant. At Liberty Advisors, we will help you and your loved ones navigate the visitation process at your facility from start to finish. We will help you understand the requirements at your facility, how to schedule appointments, and how to ensure you can spend as much time with your loved ones as possible. Reach out today to learn how we will help you.