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Preparing to Visit Your Loved One in Prison

prepare for prison visit

Are you preparing to visit someone you love who is incarcerated in a jail, prison or detention facility? For the over 2 million who are incarcerated, visiting your loved one will be one of the best ways to help them along their re-entry journey. As visitations vary state-by-state, and institution-by-institution, it is important to know your location and your loved one’s status. 

Before you enter a visiting room, there are a few things to know. We have complied a list of things to help you prepare for your time together. 

For questions regarding your specific location, reach out to them specifically or connect with your loved one to determine more. 


Do I need to schedule my visit? Yes. Although walk-ins are allowed for many states, it is best to schedule in advance to make sure. This avoids making a trip for nothing. Check in advance for visitation times and availability of your loved one you are visiting. Plan to be flexible and plan to arrive early as often other families will be meeting their loved ones also.

Will I be searched? Yes. For your safety and for the safety of the residents, prepare for a search. Check yourself and anyone else going for things the prison may determine to be contraband. See your state’s list of approved items to take.


What should I wear? In general, wear comfortable, modest clothes. Avoid articles of clothing that might be considered immodest or offensive. To learn more, check with your state’s visitation rules. Failure to comply with the standards for your state’s visitation rules may result in missing out on the visit for that day. 



Can I plan a wedding during my visit? For many states, yes. Make sure you file the proper paperwork and contact your institution to make sure you follow their rules and abide by the laws. 

How many times can I visit my loved one? There are no limits to the amount of visits a visitor may schedule; however, incarcerated persons are only allowed one visit per day, either in-person or video. All visiting will be determined based on availability and health and safety considerations.

How long is the visit? Visits can vary in length depending on availability and demand. In general, in-person visits are two hours in duration. 

Will there be food to purchase? Yes, most every visitation room will have vending machines present. Eating together is an opportunity for your family to connect and grow together. 

Are we allowed to have physical contact? States vary on this but in general, at the beginning and end of each visit, incarcerated persons and their visitor(s) may briefly embrace and kiss and hold hands.

Can a minor attend? Minors can and and should be able to visit, so long as your loved one is able to receive them at their location. To make sure, children who are preparing to attend should make sure they are on the visitation list. 

As you navigate family time, remember this is your opportunity to be together. Don’t be distracted by what you wish the time together could be, make it the best it can be!