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8 Things to know about visiting inmates in prison

Federal institutions have lots of rules about visiting inmates. Below are a few of the things you should know before visiting prison:

  1. Inmates have a right to visits, but there are limits. For example, visits might be restricted if the inmate is in segregation or if the visitor poses a risk to the institution. In some cases, only non-contact visits may be permitted.
  1. Visitors must be approved. An application form needs to be filled out every two years for security screening, which involves a criminal record check.
  1. Visits must be scheduled. Visitors can’t just show up. Even if a visit is scheduled, it may not go ahead if there is a lockdown or visitors are denied entry.
  1. Children can visit offenders, but there must be an adult supervising. A waiver also needs to be filled out.
  1. Visitors can be searched. Anyone can be routinely searched. Staff can also do a strip search if there are reasonable grounds to believe the visitor has contraband.
  1. Vehicles parked at a prison can be searched. Correctional officers can perform a search if they have reasonable grounds to believe that the vehicle contains contraband.
  1. There are restrictions on what visitors can bring in. Do NOT bring in electronics, anything resembling contraband, large amounts of money, etc. when visiting inmates. You can (with some exceptions) bring in medical devices, medication, hygiene products, childcare items, money for vending machines, and religious/cultural items. Different institutions have different rules. Always check with the institution prior to bringing anything in.
  1. Entry will be denied if visitors are carrying contraband, intoxicated, or refuse to be searched. Incidents involving visitors may even be noted in the inmate’s correctional documents, meaning they can factor into decisions about security classification, transfers, etc.


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