I know it might seem like the beginning of summer isn’t the right time to be talking about Christmas, but I disagree. In my world, there is never a bad time to talk about the holiday. And, considering how difficult the first part of 2020 has been, I can only imagine how grateful we will all be this December when we get the opportunity to be with our loved ones at Christmas time.
I have talked before about the importance of visits when you are serving a prison sentence, and I have given advice on what to talk about when you visit someone who is incarcerated. I have even dished on what holidays are like when you are behind bars.
But today, I’m going to answer a simple question about Christmas and prison visits that I see pop up often but have never directly addressed. The subject of today’s blog post is: Can you visit someone in prison on Christmas Day?
In this blog post I will cover the following topics:
- Christmas Visiting Rules for Federal Inmates
- Christmas Visiting Rules for State Inmates
- What is Christmas Like in Prison?
Christmas Visiting Rules for Federal Inmates
Social visits are allowed for family and friends of federal prison inmates on Christmas Day even if the holiday doesn’t fall on the regular visiting days of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, visits are allowed on Christmas Day between 8:00 am and 3:00 pm.
Visitors are allowed to enter the lobby area at 7:45 am and they will be processed into the visiting room until 2:00 pm However, visitor traffic will stop at the Front Gate of the complex at 9:30 am, and visitors will not be allowed to enter until after the 10:00 am count has cleared.
This means that you need to arrive before 9:30 am or you will not be allowed to enter the visiting room until about 10:30 am, which is usually when the 10:00 am count clears. FYI, a “count” is when the prison staff counts all of the inmates to make sure no one is missing from the facility. These counts take place five to six times every day, and no inmate movement is allowed during these times.
No more than five visitors are allowed to visit an inmate at one time, but children 15 and younger are not counted toward this total.
Remember, holidays can be very busy in the visiting room. Expect your Christmas visit to be loud, crowded, and short. To make sure every inmate has the chance to visit with their loved ones on the holiday, the visiting room will implement a first in/first out rotation if there is a waiting list.
You will most likely be on a one or two-hour time limit, but that will vary by facility.
Christmas Visiting Rules for State Inmates
Unlike the federal prisons, not every state facility will open their visiting room on Christmas Day. To find out if the facility your loved one is in allows Christmas visits, click on the PrisonInsight correctional facilities directory to find the name of the prison you want to research.
In the visiting rules section of the listing, you should see the visiting times for that facility. If we can’t find the information online, we provide phone numbers for you to call to get more information.
The visiting hours on Christmas Day vary by location. But, like the federal facilities, you should expect the visiting room in a state facility to be loud and crowded.
What is Christmas Like in Prison?
For the most part, Christmas in prison is just like any other day in prison — it sucks. Yes, you might get a special lunch at the chow hall with a bit more food than usual, but that’s pretty much it. I will give WERDCC a shout out on this because that is where I was incarcerated, and the donations we received led to pretty great Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. But, it’s not like that in every facility.
We also received a “Christmas Bag” every year thanks to volunteers and donations. This annual gift was a plastic bag filled with different types of snacks and candy. Those bags were the equivalent of receiving a stimulus check because they literally pumped money into the prison economy.
People were constantly trading their peanut butter crackers for a packet of instant coffee, or offering up their pop tart for a snack-size bag of chocolate chip cookies. The amount of wheeling and dealing that went on with those bags looked like the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
The other significant change on Christmas was the phone line. Since nearly everyone wanted to speak with their loved ones, the lines could last for hours, and it was sometimes difficult to get near a phone if you didn’t have any seniority.
There were no Christmas decorations or presents. You wouldn’t have even known it was Christmas Day by looking around. Needless to say, it’s a much better experience in the free world.
Have you visited someone in prison on Christmas? What was your experience like? Let us know in the comments below.
Sources: Visiting Regulations Federal Bureau of Prisons https://www.bop.gov/locations/institutions/flf/FLF_visit_hours.pdf