This webpage provides basic information about visiting inmates. It doesn't cover every situation. For the official regulations, see the Program Statement.
The Bureau of Prisons encourages visiting by family, friends, and community groups to maintain
the morale of the inmate and to develop closer relationships between the inmate and family members
or others in the community, however, the Warden may restrict inmate visiting when necessary to ensure
the security and good order of the institution.
Each Federal prison has set up certain days and times, called "visiting hours," for family and friends to visit inmates. There are more than a hundred prisons, and the visiting hours can be very different. All institutions have visiting hours on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, and most have them at other times during the week.
The inmate you plan to visit should tell you what the hours are. If you have any question about a particular prison's hours, call that prison. See the address list for phone numbers.
Some prisons have different types of inmates with different visiting needs. Some have more facilities available for visiting than others.
Individual prisons can set up evening hours.
By law, an inmate gets at least four hours per month. Usually the prison can provide more. The Warden can decide to restrict the length of visits, or the number of people who can visit at once, to avoid overcrowding in the visiting room.
Usually, but sometimes the prison may have to limit visiting to one day on a weekend, because it's the most popular time to visit.
Prisons try to allow for special circumstances, such as the distance you have to travel, or health problems. Again, call the prison before you travel for a visit.
To visit, you must be on the inmate's approved visiting list. The inmate gives a list of proposed visitors to staff, who investigate the proposed visitors before putting anyone to the list.
The list includes:
When an inmate arrives at an institution, he or she receives an institution handbook that has visiting procedures, including:
Prison address/phone number; directions, and information about local transportation. Days and hours of visitation. Approved dress code. Items authorized in the visiting room. Special rules for children. Items visitors may bring to give to the inmate. Identification requirements for visitors. Special visitor requirements.
An initial visiting list is ordinarily established within a few days. It includes immediate family members approved to visit. Additional family members and friends may be added following investigation. The inmate is responsible for giving each approved visitor the visiting guidelines and directions to the prison.
Because some inmates have criminal associates, staff may need background information from potential visitors before they are added to the visiting list. If there is little or no information available about a person, visiting may be denied.
Staff give the inmate a Visitor Information Form to send to each proposed visitor. This form must be filled out by the visitor and mailed back to staff. Staff may then decide to contact other law enforcement agencies or the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) to complete the investigation. The inmate is told when a person is not approved to visit. It is the inmate's responsibility to notify that person.
Children under 16 must have an adult with them when they visit. Their parent or guardian must approve their being on the visiting list.
Some institutions have programs for young children while visits are going on.
Only guide dogs that help with a disability are allowed. You have to show certification that the dog is trained for that purpose. Pets are not allowed.
Staff will decide, based on what sort of crime and how recent it was. If you're on probation, parole, or supervised release, you are required to have written authorization to visit.
Inmates cannot conduct business in prison. An inmate is expected to assign authority for a business or profession to someone else.
Occasionally, you might have to make a decision that will substantially affect the assets or prospects of the business. In such cases, the Warden can allow a special visit.
Yes. For example:
Foreign inmates (non-U.S. citizens) may have visits from officials from their home country's embassy or consulate. Members of religious and civic groups may visit. Clergy, former or prospective employers, sponsors, and parole advisors may visit to help with release planning and discussion of family problems.
There are special rules for attorneys. Attorney visits are private and usually take place somewhere other than the visiting room. See the Program Statement on Inmate Legal Activities.
Staff will help you with directions, including how to get there by public transportation when available.
There are no Government payments for transportation.
Usually, you can visit if you are an immediate family member (verified in the inmate's Pre-Sentence Report). This also applies to inmates who transfer from one facility to another. You should call the prison before you try to visit to ensure you'll be allowed to visit.
If the inmate is in the prison's health services unit, the Medical Officer may decide not to allow a visit for health-related reasons.
Sometimes inmates go to hospitals in the community. Usually only immediate family can visit, according to the hospital's policy.
In either case, be sure to contact the prison before you visit.
Usually, you can visit an inmate in detention or segregation. The prison will set up special visiting procedures.
Visiting may be restricted (or the visiting privilege might be revoked) if the inmate committed a prohibited act relating to visiting, or if visiting might threaten the order or security of the institution.
Inmates can lose their visiting privileges, but only after a disciplinary hearing and as a "last resort" sanction to encourage good behavior.
You have to show a photo ID and sign a visitors' log.
Your name will be checked against the inmate's visiting list.
Staff will show you guidelines for visiting the institution. You will have to sign a statement that you do not have anything in your possession that is a threat to the security of the institution.
Staff can search you or your property.
Staff will not allow you to visit unless you cooperate with all of these requirements.
Staff are in the visiting room at all times to supervise each visit. The visiting room may be monitored using security cameras or other devices.
Note that the Program Statement says: "The Warden may monitor a restroom within the visiting area when there is reasonable suspicion that a visitor or an inmate is engaged, or attempting or about to engage, in criminal or other prohibited behavior."
Wear clothing that is appropriate for a large gathering of men, women, and young children. Don't wear provocative or revealing clothes or you may not be allowed to visit.
Because many people are usually visiting, it's important that visits are quiet, orderly, and dignified. The visiting room officer can tell you to leave if either you or the inmate are not acting in the appropriate manner.
In most cases, handshakes, hugs, and kisses (in good taste) are allowed at the beginning and end of a visit. The staff may limit contact for security reasons (to prevent people from trying to introduce contraband) and to keep the visiting area orderly.
Contraband is anything that is not allowed in the prison, such as drugs, weapons, unauthorized medicines, or unauthorized money.
Attempting to bring contraband into a prison is a serious crime. If convicted, you can be imprisoned for as much as 20 years.
While some state correctional systems do allow conjugal visits, the Federal Bureau of Prisons does not allow them.
Check before you visit, because this can differ between prisons. Items that aren't allowed in the prison must be left outside the visiting room (and are not the prison's responsibility).
The visiting room officer will not accept articles or gifts of any kind unless they have been approved in advance. Therefore, if you want to leave something for an inmate (such as a package), you will have to call the prison in advance to receive prior approval. Money may not be left for deposit in the inmate's account with any staff member.
The officer watches to make sure nothing else is passed between an inmate and a visitor. If the officer thinks that any item constitutes contraband, he or she may examine it.
Inmates may receive funds from any source in the form of negotiable instruments expressed in U.S. currency. (Note: personal checks are not accepted and persons are strongly discouraged from sending cash via U.S. mail). The preferred method for sending funds to an inmate is via a money order (in U.S. currency). Inmate funds are deposited into the individual inmate's trust account. Money for inmates should not be sent directly to the facility where the inmate is in custody. Funds should be sent to the following address for deposit into the inmate's trust fund account:
Federal Bureau of Prisons