Prisoners confined within the Federal Bureau of Prisons are permitted to have visits with family and friends. While visitation policies differ depending on the federal prison in question, the general rules and procedures are the same for all facilities.
Applying to Visit
While an inmate’s immediate family members will automatically be approved for visitation, friends can also visit, as long as they knew the prisoner prior to their current incarceration. To determine the inmate’s immediate family members, prison officials include this information in the prisoner’s Pre-Sentence Investigation Report (PSR). For those not in the inmate’s immediate family, the prisoner will need to send them a visitation application form for them to complete and return. This application form asks a number of questions, including if the proposed visitor has a criminal history and for how long they have known the prisoner. As each new person is added to your visitation list you should receive an updated copy of the list from your counselor.
While the prior relationship component is mostly absolute, merely having a criminal record (especially one from years prior) isn’t a reason for exclusion, though, being on probation, parole, or supervised release, along with having a recent criminal history could be used as a cause for denial. If a family member or friend has a criminal record, then your unit manager will review the application to determine if it should be approved or denied.
After the visitor is approved, they need to speak with their incarcerated family member or friend to find out what days they are allowed to receive visits on. Common days are Monday, Thursday, and Friday evenings, along with Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
Most prisons stagger authorized visitation days to provide equal access. For example, prisoner’s who’s last digit of their registration number is even could visit on Saturdays for a particular month, while those with an odd last digit could visit on Sundays. The following month the days tend to swap.
All visits with loved ones are monitored by the prison. However, prisoners confined within the Federal Bureau of Prisons do enjoy the right to privileged legal communications with their attorneys. Learn more about attorney and prisoner visitation.
There are some limitations to when and how often a prisoner can receive visits.
Number of visits: Prisoners are given visitation points, where prisoners are assessed a point for weekday visits and three points for weekend and holiday visits. While the exact point totals and limitations vary by prison facility, the idea is that prisoners can only receive so many visits each month. This tends to be five or six, depending on the days selected and local policies. Such policies should be available for review at each prison’s page at www.bop.gov.
What visitors can wear when they visit prisoners: Outside of approval and visit limitations, there are also limitations placed on visitor attire and what can be brought into the institution. Generally speaking, short skits, skin-tight clothes, anything blue or tan, and open-toed shoes are prohibited.
What visitors can bring when they visit a prison: Visitors are restricted to bringing in a wallet, car keys, and a clear plastic bag with money in it for use in the vending machines. All visitors must present a valid, government-issued photo ID, along with submitting to a search of person via metal detector or other methods. The vending machine is a highlight for many prisoners as the food in the vending machines is better fare than the food in prison. Due to the change machine usually being out of order, it is a good idea for visitors to bring perhaps $10 to $15 in quarters.
Limited contact with prisoners when visiting: During visits there are also limits to contact permitted. Prisoners and visitors are allowed to embrace at the beginning and end of visits, which are conducted in a designated area of the prison (e.g., the Visitation Room), but not throughout the visit. While most prison guards will permit the holding of hands, groping and ongoing kissing are prohibited.
How long visits with prisoners last: The length of visitation time with federal prisoners depends on the local prison facility, but most visits can last for several hours (e.g., three or four).
Amount of people allowed to visit prisoners at a time: The Federal Bureau of Prisons policy permits up to four adult visitors at a time, though local policies can expand or restrict this. Children under 16 don’t count against this total. Most prisons permit inmates to have up to 10 non-immediate family members on their approved visitation list at one time.
Violations of any of the above or other stated visitation policies can result in a visit being terminated. Usually Visitation Room officials will provide a warning prior to terminating a visit.