What to Expect When You Visit an Inmate

Visiting an inmate is a powerful experience, one which goes far beyond the everyday act of seeing someone you care about on the other side of the glass.

When you visit an inmate for the first time, you’re probably walking into this situation with many questions. How do I act? What do I talk about? What if I see them crying?

The truth is, visiting inmates isn’t different from visiting any other member of your family. Here is everything you need to know before you visit an incarcerated friend or family member.

What to Expect When You Visit an Inmate

Understanding Inmate Visitation Rules and Regulations

The rules and regulations of each facility, such as state prison, federal prison, or county jail, may vary, and one should educate themselves before the visit. Make sure you know which facility you are going to visit. You can do an inmate search here to be sure.

You must register for visitation in advance, as most facilities have a quota of visitors. When you arrive, you will be subject to a search and have your belongings scanned.

Visits are supervised and can be terminated for any unpredictable misconduct or violation of the rules. Be prepared for physical contact to be prohibited, as regulations differ and can change without notice.

Know What to Bring and What Not to Bring

Generally, you are expected to bring a government-issued photo ID, such as a recent driver’s license, passport, or state-issued identification card. Any items given to the inmate must be inspected, so be certain that any food, books, letters, or other documents you bring are checked.

Weapons and any illegal items are prohibited. Many prisons require that visitors pass through a metal detector, so be sure to leave sharp objects, tools, and weapons at home. Money and prescription medications should also be left at home. Money can be sent to the inmate, while prison medical staff can provide medications.

What to Wear for a Jail Visit

Clothes must not contain gang references, profanity, obscenities, or contain verbal or visual images deemed offensive by the staff. Clothing items to wear for a jail visit may include collared shirts, dress slacks or jeans without holes, dresses or skirts no higher than mid-thigh, and closed-toe shoes. Female visitors should also ensure that tops have straps wider than one-half of an inch.

How to Communicate During Your Visit

How you communicate will depend on the type of facility you are visiting. At most facilities, you will have a private meeting area and be able to speak to the inmate directly. You should avoid talking about correctional matters or engaging in any forms of communication that could be considered illegal or disruptive.

Remain aware of other people’s presence and avoid talking about sensitive topics. Communication should be respectful, brief, and limited to topics of a recreational or social nature. Respect the fact that you are communicating with someone in a correctional facility, and ensure that your conduct is always appropriate.

Use This Guide to Know What to Expect When You Visit an Inmate

Visiting an inmate can be a daunting experience. Be sure to do your research ahead of time so that you know the rules and regulations, as well as what to bring. Respect the regulations of the correctional facility, remain as calm and supportive as possible, and be prepared to listen to the inmate.

By keeping these things in mind, you can have a successful visit. If you are planning to visit an inmate, contact a corrections officer for more information.

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