Visiting an Inmate for the First Time – 10 Things to Know

Visiting an Inmate for the First Time – 10 Things to Know

Prisons hold dangerous people; therefore, they have to be on top-notch conditions in terms of security. This not only means securing the prisoners but also ensuring no contraband from outside lands in an inmate’s hand. Part of this entails ensuring that visitors who come into the facility do not pose any threat to the facility’s security.

As most security facilities will have visitation allowed, they have to come with certain rules to prevent any security breaches. Failure to adhere to these rules will most likely get you prevented from seeing the inmate.

Special visits in prisons also require certain rules to be adhered to, and although they are reducing in numbers across prisons, they are still allowed.

This article will take a look at ten steps you can take when visiting an inmate for the first time.

What to Know When Visiting a Prisoner

Be Aware Of the Dress Code

Prison facilities have a dress code for anyone visiting; failure to follow the rules will result in your not seeing the inmate. There are certain clothes and even shoe types that are not allowed, dependent on the security facility you plan to visit. Be sure to make a phone call to the facility before visiting to ensure you comply with their visitation requirements.

It is advisable to carry some extra clothes with you if you are not sure about the dress code. The guard on duty will be instrumental in guiding you to what is accepted at the facility.

Here are some suggestions as to possible dress rules you may encounter at most security facilities:

  • Avoid sleeveless shirts, halter-tops, tank tops, or revealing low cuts
  • avoid any camouflage attire
  • Avoid any clothes affiliated with gangs
  • Avoid dressing like the inmates
  • No shorts and short dresses
  • No flip-flops

No Access to the Facility If You Are Carrying Non-Essentials

Contraband is quite a huge deal in prison, and inmates found with contraband will face punishment that may involve solitary confinement or taking away of prison liberties. Contraband can be described as any illegal goods or products not part of the allowed inmate essentials.

Security personnel have to ensure no contraband gets into the facility through visitors coming in. They prevent visitors from bringing any non-essential items inside the prison facility to minimize the things people can bring in, making it harder to sneak contraband. Some of the things you can bring into prison facilities include an ID card and some vending machine money. If you are sick, you can bring in one dose for the duration you are with the inmate.

While getting through the security facility gates, you will be required to take back anything prohibited from the facility back to your car.

You will also get information at the gate as to what can and cannot be brought into the facility.

No Electronic Devices

Most facilities will prohibit any electric device from getting into the facility. You are required to leave all electronic devices inside your car or at home. In case you are looking forward to a picture, you will be at the mercy of the facility on whether or not they have a program that allows for photos with inmates.

You may ask yourself why the facility may prohibit electrical gadgets; well, do not confuse criminality with being dumb. Inmates are quite handy with gadgets, and they can turn them into several things. If an inmate ever laid their hands on an electrical gadget, there is no telling what they will do with it. These same people can turn a toothbrush into a deadly weapon.

Double Check the Schedule

Visiting schedules are laid out clearly on the security facilities website; however, it can still be hectic to master. An inmate may have lost their visitation privileges from infractions they may have committed while in jail. Some prison facilities will also rotate visitation between housing units and inmate ID’s, as all inmates cannot be visited at once.

This means you have to call the facility at least and enquire whether the inmate you plan to visit is available for visitation. There are many other reasons visitations might change, especially with this Covid19 pandemic; contacting the facility may be a lifesaver.

Just ensure to check the schedule for the last time right before embarking on the trip.

Visiting an Inmate for the First Time-Get Approved

Apart from privately owned facilities, most of the other security prisons will require visitors’ approval before making the trip. This works because potential visitors have to send back an approval form to the facility after filling it.

After being processed into the security facility, an inmate is provided with a bunch of visitor application forms, which they have to send to their loved ones, who, in turn, fill them and send them back to the facility. Without these forms being approved by the prison facility, a visit may go to waste as you may not see the inmate.

You may also download, print, fill the visitation form, and send it to the facility the inmate is being held at.

The reason for the visitor application is to ensure that the facility is aware of who is coming in. Through the information provided on the visitor’s application form, inmate personnel can carry out a background search to ensure the visitor is not a security threat.

It is illegal to provide false information on the visitor’s application form, and you may be prosecuted for this.

There Will Be a Search

Of course, you won’t just be let into the facility without checking to ensure you are not transporting contraband into the facility. You will have to undergo a search procedure that mainly involves going through a metal detector, after which you are parted down.

The level of the search will depend on the facility. One may take you through a metal detector; another may carry out a pat-down while the more aggressive facilities will even have k-9’s sniff you for drugs and contraband.

If you are caught with drugs at a prison facility, you will be arrested immediately and transferred into police custody for the jurisdiction. Therefore, it is highly advisable to refrain from any temptation to carry some drugs to a security facility.

In case they find other contraband on your person, as long as it is legal, you will be asked to take it back to the car.

Get There On Time

Time is another important factor that may see you being turned back at the prison entrance. Most facilities are quite strict with their timetable, with certain facilities requiring visitors to come in about four hours before visitation time.

The Number of People Invited

Different security facilities have different rules for the number of people invited to a jail visit at a time. Many facilities limit visitors per inmate to accommodate more inmates to see people and maintain a controllable crowd for the sake of security.

Certain jail facilities will allow up to five people per inmate while other more high-level security facilities might limit the number to one inmate per visit.

This does not mean that the inmate cannot get a couple of visitors; as long as they come in at the designated times, they will get a chance to see the inmate in intervals.

Before making a visit to the facility, ensure you know when the facility requires visitors to arrive. You can do this through a phone call or email to the facility. You can also search the internet for more information.

Bring Some Change

During the visit, most security facilities have some vending machines for inmates and loved ones to share some goodies to lighten the mood and provide an all-around good time. You can find several things on a prison vending machine, from soda to a cheeseburger and some Fritos. We all know there is nothing as good as sharing a meal with loved ones, and a soda with a friend may provide an inmate some satisfaction that will help propel him through jail time.

Most facilities will accept cash and credit cards. You can bring up to $20 in cash or come with credit cards. You will have to carry the money and credit cards in a clear bag while entering the facility and during the visit.

It may appear trivial but carrying some change for snacks is quite important in lightening the mood.

What You Can Bring Into the Visiting Room

Any items brought to the visiting room will need to be in a clear plastic bag for security reasons. This is done so that officers can see everything carried around within the facility.

Inmates can be very creative, and any laxity on the part of security personnel is a risk of contraband getting smuggled into the facility.

It Will Not Be Easy

You will have to be prepared to experience a range of emotions if you decide to meet an inmate. Whether the offender is a first-time inmate or a repeat inmate, it is never easy to see a loved one behind bars.

For one, time flies, and the visit seems to pass by so fast; you never seem to get enough of it. You find yourself leaving in what seems like minutes after arriving.

Another thing is the mood. You may have to overlook the elephant in the room and speak on different topics other than jail to help the inmate forget about jail for a while. In a scenario like this, rather than stressing about what to speak on, you can relax, reduce the thinking, and try to have a normal conversation with the inmate.

In addition, seeing a friend or family member in such a situation as prison will rally up some emotion.


Jail is not easy for anyone, whether the inmate and their friends and family. Constant communication is important, and an occasional visit to the inmate makes all the difference. Familiarizing yourself with the above information before visiting may be the difference between being turned back and accessing the inmate.