With nearly a million people locked up in jails at any given time, the United States has one of the biggest imprisoned populations on the planet.
However, when you visit your friend or loved one at a jail, the feeling will be personal, unique, and even completely foreign to you. If you don’t know what to do, how to act, or what you can bring when visiting an inmate for the first time, we’ve put together a guide.
Be sure to consider these 3 things when you’re visiting an inmate for the first time.
1. Understand Prohibited Items
When you’re visiting someone in jail, you might want to bring along some familiar or sentimental items that make the person you’re visiting feel loved. While this is a sweet gesture, it’s possible the object you’re thinking about bringing in is prohibited.
First, weapons, drugs, and alcohol are absolutely prohibited. If you try to sneak these items in, you could end up arrested yourself. No matter what the circumstances, avoid doing this at all costs.
Digital communication devices are also considered contraband and you won’t be able to bring those kinds of items in. If you want to bring in photos, you’ll have to have them printed out.
2. Plan Your Minutes
While some jails allow you two full hours to visit and talk, if you show up later in the day or go to a jail with a less generous visit length, you need to prepare. Have a list of things to go over, questions to ask, or updates to offer. You’ll be overwhelmed with emotion at times, but without a script of things to go over, you’ll be mad at yourself for missing things.
Call ahead to schedule your visit. Some jails allow you to make an appointment with the person you’re visiting. Ask how early you should arrive as in many cases, you’ll need to be on site far in advance because of the number of people who want to visit on any given day.
3. You Can Be Prohibited
Just because you’ve visited before doesn’t mean that you have the right to visit in the future. You can be suspended or have your right to visit your loved one terminated.
If you didn’t finish your application or falsified any part of it, you’ll be kept from having any more visits. If you caused problems during another visit or arrive visibly intoxicated, this will get you kicked out.
You need to consent to a search and show proper identification to be allowed into the visitation space. If you don’t, you might not be let in.
If it would cause clear distress to the inmate or you were named in their assault charge, you also won’t be allowed into the facility.
Visiting an Inmate for the First Time Feels Odd
No matter how close you are to the person you’re going to see, visiting an inmate for the first time will feel strange. While you might fear to make a mistake, you can assuage your fears by calling ahead to the jail and asking the questions you need to ask.
To avoid jail altogether, check out our guide on getting a bail bond.