Staying connected with your loved one in prison can seem intimidating. From navigating calls and emails, to visits and letters, there are many ways to stay connected. Taking time to visit them can be one of the most rewarding things you can do for your relationship. Here are a few things you can do to make your visit a success.
Schedule Your Visit – As you are planning your visit, you may need to consult with your loved one to see when they are available. Most facilities are open for visits on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. In addition, many facilities make the effort to be available certain times throughout the week. For more info, check out the specific facility your loved one is at.
Get on the Approved Visit List – This is a crucial step as you might not be able to get in without being on your loved one’s approved list. For yourself and other loved ones who may want to visit, you will need to fill out a visitor information form such as this one. Check with the specific facility and see if they require a different form. Once completed, mail it to the proper location for approval.
Be Aware of How Much Time You Have – Although it may vary from state-to-state, you will be allotted at least 4 hours of in-person visits every month. Some places may allow for more, so be sure to ask the rules upon arrival. To make the most of your time together, communicate with your loved one what time you will be coming to the visiting room.
Plan Your Wardrobe – An important (and sometimes overlooked) aspect of a prison visit is your attire. Not only is it important to wear modest clothing, but prisons have rules that dictate what visitors are able to wear. For a list of appropriate clothing for most prisons, see this list.
Obey Physical Contact Rules – Upon arrival to your visit, it is important to follow the prison’s physical contact rules. For the most part, hugs, handshakes, and kisses are allowed at the beginning and end of each visit, within reason. There may be limited contact to prevent contraband from entering the premises and keeping the visiting room in order. Be sure to become familiar with and observe your specific location’s rules.
Plan a Meal Together – Sharing a meal together is one of the best ways to connect as a family. Although it may not seem like a good use of your time, a family meal is a great way to break the ice and bond together. Most visiting rooms have vending machines stocked with food. Make it fun and opt to have a picnic-style meal.
Plan Some Activities – If you or your loved one has children, and you feel comfortable taking them along, a visiting room is a great opportunity to be together as a family. Visiting rooms offer board games, coloring books and other activities including playgrounds, gyms, etc. Make the most of your time together and be intentional to be a family.
Be Courteous of Others – As important as it is to have fun and enjoy each other, it is equally important to know the visiting rules. Heeding these rules is important as disobeying them may result in a disruption to another family’s time together or a shortened visit.
Navigating your life’s busy schedule as well as your loved one’s can be a challenge. Despite the effort it may take, it is worth the effort and it will pay dividends in your relationship. Every relationship worth fighting for will require effort. Taking the time and emotional investment for a family visit is worth all the effort. It will mean the world to your loved one in prison.