How to Visit a Prison Inmate

Visiting a prison can be an emotionally fraught process.
... Dick Luria/Photodisc/Getty Images

Visiting prisoners brings comfort to these members of society who are often ignored and sometimes despised by mainstream society, reminding them that they’re not forgotten. Visiting tends to be difficult both because of the emotional weight involved and the difficulties of navigating the visitation process. The basic rules are consistent from federal to state prisons and from state to state.

1 Visitor Applications

Typically, if you wish to visit a prisoner, you must fill out an application that includes a series of questions involving the reason for visiting and any previous criminal history on the part of the visitor. You must also list the nature of your relationship to the prisoner. For example, contact visitors are close friends or family members who make visits of a personal nature, while spiritual advisors operate as chaplains, ministering guidance and healing.

2 Visitor Dress Code

To maintain a safe prison environment, prisons enforce dress codes for visitors. Prison administration denies access to visitors who wear clothing that they consider risque or inflammatory, which might include see-through clothing, low-necked shirts or T-shirts with slogans that could be interpreted as inciting violence. Importantly, prisons forbid visitors from wearing clothing, such as coats, ponchos or jackets, that could conceal weapons or contraband items. Those who show up to a prison wearing one or more of these items may be asked to remove them.

3 Locating Prisoners

It sometimes happens that prisoners who start out in one location are then moved to a different location. To ensure that your visit is not wasted, investigate the location of the person in question before your visit. If you know the number of an inmate in federal prison, you can find out which prison he is housed in by typing his identification number into the Federal Bureau of Prisons website. Note that you may be unable to visit if the prisoner has not already listed you as someone who may visit them. People searching for an inmate at a state prison may be able to use a state inmate locator at the correctional facility website corresponding to their state.

4 Visiting Hours

Although all prisons allow visitors during weekends and holidays, visiting hours during weekdays and the number of hours permitted to visitors during a week vary depending on states and institutions. For example, in California, visiting hours typically run from 7:30 a.m. or 8 a.m. to between 2 p.m. or 3 p.m. PST, while in Florida, visiting hours run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m EST. While in Texas, these visits must be scheduled at least one day before the anticipated time of visitation, in Florida, visitors are permitted to register on the day of the visit.

Boze Herrington is a writer and blogger who lives in Kansas City, Mo. His work has been featured in Cracked and "The Atlantic."