Can You Record Prison Visits?

By Prison Insight Staff

Updated: August 19, 2020

When you are preparing to visit someone in prison for the first time, you will most likely have a lot of questions. When you walk onto a DOC or BOP property, it’s a completely different world. There are rules about absolutely everything – even for the visitors from the free world.

Before making it to the prison visiting room, there has to be approval from corrections officials. When you arrive, make sure it’s on the right day at the right time. You can’t get there too early, or too late. 

In addition to getting the timing right, you have to wear appropriate clothing, and there are serious restrictions about what you can bring with you. In fact, if you bring the wrong item to a prison visit, you could find yourself facing criminal charges. 

Today, I wanted to talk about the rules regarding items you are allowed to bring into a prison visiting room, as well as questions regarding the topic of electronic devices. So, let’s answer today’s blog post question: can you record prison visits?

In this blog post I will cover the following topics:

  • Items allowed in the prison visiting room
  • How to record a prison visit
  • Video visits and recorded phone calls

Items allowed in the prison visiting room

Anytime a prison opens its doors to visitors, it’s a security risk. Contraband is brought into a facility when someone from the free world has contact with a prison inmate. 

No matter if it’s prison staff or a visitor, people from the outside have access to items not allowed inside prison walls. This is a serious threat to the safety and security of a facility, and the rules surrounding contraband are very serious.

If you are caught trying to smuggle drugs or weapons into a prison, you are going to face criminal charges. Some states have also made it a crime for anyone to bring an electronic device onto prison grounds.

Cell phones, smart watches, tablets, and cameras are not allowed during a prison visit. This means that the answer to today’s blog question is crystal clear – no, you can’t record prison visits.

Any attempt to bring a recording device into a prison visiting room will not end well for the visitor or the inmate.

A few items that visitors are allowed to bring into a visiting room are: quarters for the vending machines, one car key, and a photo ID. These three items are pretty universal when it comes to prison visiting rooms.

Some facilities will allow you to bring photos and legal documents. Most will allow visitors to bring emergency life-saving medications. Visitors with small children can also bring items needed to take care of an infant.

Everything else should remain in your vehicle or be placed in a visitor locker.

How to record a prison visit

The only way a visitor (who is not the inmate’s attorney) can record a prison visit is if they are a member of the media. During my time behind bars, I did receive numerous requests for interviews. Because of strict rules, I did most of my interviews by phone. 

However, one media outlet did jump through all of the hoops put in place by the DOC. They arrived at the prison after getting approval from the warden, and I gave an interview in the visiting room that was recorded on video. 

This didn’t happen on a regular visiting day. The only people in the visiting room during my interview were me, one guard, the reporter, and the cameraman.

It’s not easy to get approval for an in-person media visit. Some facilities will shut down all attempts to interview inmates, while others will make a decision on a case-by-case basis. 

Video visits and recorded phone calls

Visitors aren’t allowed to record prison visits, but they do often take place in front of a camera. Many facilities have video visitation, and sometimes that is the only visiting option. While most inmates can enjoy in-person visits with their loved ones, those in supermax and max facilities might not have that choice.

Some high-level security prisons have scrapped in-person visits altogether, while other facilities have added video visits as an option for visitors who can’t travel to the prison’s physical location.

All video visits are monitored and recorded, just like inmate phone calls. For obvious reasons, prison officials don’t like their inmates having any kind of communication with people in the outside world that isn’t monitored and/or recorded. 

Have you ever had a video visit with an inmate? Was it from home or from the facility? Let us know in the comments below.


Prison Cell Phone Bill Advances

Visiting Regulations-Bureau of Prisons
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