For the past couple of months, prisons all over the country have shut down their visiting rooms due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yes, this is a safety precaution, but the damage this decision does to an inmate’s health and well-being can’t be understated.
Visits are crucial for a prison inmate, and they are encouraged by most facilities. Staying connected to friends and family is a huge factor when it comes to inmate rehabilitation. It is easy to feel forgotten when you are incarcerated, and communicating with loved ones can help an inmate get through their sentence with minimal issues.
When state and federal prisons do open up their visiting rooms again, I highly encourage you to visit your inmate immediately. They have been cut off from outside information and locked in cells for as much as 23 hours per day because of the COVID-19 pandemic and because of the George Floyd Riots. They will be eager to see their loved ones again and get caught up with what is going on in the free world.
This leads us to today’s topic: How can I find out if I am on an inmate’s visiting list?
In this blog post I will cover the following topics:
- Do you have to get approval?
- How do I get a visiting application?
- Who do I contact?
- What happens when an inmate is transferred?
Do you have to get approval?
Yes. The Federal Bureau of Prisons and most of the 50 state Departments of Corrections do require a visitor to be approved in advance before they visit a prison inmate. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but the vast majority do require all visitors (adults and minors) to fill out a visiting application and get approval from the prison administration before they are allowed to visit.
I should point out that most county and city jails do not require visitor approval. I do recommend that you call the jail to find out their specific visiting rules, and it is usually a good idea to show up early to get a spot in the visiting room because space is extremely limited.
How do I get a visiting application?
Again, there are no universal rules when it comes to prison, but there are two common ways for you to get a visiting application to visit your prison inmate. First, there is the online option. The Federal Bureau of Prisons and some state DOC websites do have a visitor application available online for you to download, print, fill out, and return to the facility.
When that is an option, we make sure to provide links to the visitor application on the facility’s PrisonInsight listing.
When a visiting application is available online, it also includes information about where you should send a completed form. Some facilities will require you to mail it in via snail mail, and others will have a way for you to complete and submit the form online.
The other option when it comes to visiting applications is to ask your inmate to send you one during a phone call or in a letter. Oftentimes, it is up to the inmate to send out applications to the family members and friends they would like to add to their visiting list.
It should be noted that an inmate has the right to keep you off of their visiting list if they do not wish to see you. They are not obligated to send you an application, and they are not obligated to show up in the visiting room.
Who do I contact?
The best way to find out if you are on an inmate’s visiting list is to ask them during a phone call or via inmate mail. If you haven’t filled out an application, chances are you are not on the list. If you have filled out an application and sent it back to the facility, the inmate will be notified of the prison administration’s decision.
If you are approved, you probably won’t be notified. Instead, the inmate will get a message from their case worker and then let you know. If you are denied, the DOC or BOP will usually send you a letter explaining their reason for rejecting your application.
Potential visitors who get rejected include those with a criminal history, those who are currently on probation/parole, those who didn’t have a prior relationship with the inmate before their incarceration, and former prison workers. Each facility has specific rules about who is not allowed in the visiting room.
If you are having trouble getting in touch with your inmate, you can call their case worker directly. They will either tell you if you have been approved or denied, or they will pass the message to the inmate and have them contact you to let you know about your status.
What happens when an inmate is transferred?
If your inmate has been transferred to a different facility in the same state, then you will still be on their approved visiting list. The same thing applies for inmates in the federal system. However, if an inmate moves from state to state, state to federal, or federal to state, then you will need to reapply to visit your inmate.
I can not stress enough how important visits are when you are in prison. So, as soon as the visiting rooms open back up, be sure to put a visit with your inmate at the top of your To Do List.
When was the last time you were able to visit with your inmate? Let us know in the comments below.
Sources: My personal experience at WERDCC General Visiting Information https://www.bop.gov/inmates/visiting.jsp