What to Expect When You Visit Someone In Jail

When a friend or family member is in jail, the thought of visiting can seem daunting and nerve-wracking. This post addresses some important information to know in advance that will make your visit a less stressful experience.

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Types of visits

A visit with an inmate can happen in several different ways. Depending on the jail and the specific situation, you may be able to visit with the person through video, similar to a Skype or FaceTime call. You could also have a non-contact or telephone visit, meaning that you and the person you’re visiting are separated by a glass partition and each party has a telephone that allows you to talk. Finally, and most commonly, you may have a contact visit, during which you’re allowed to sit with the jailed person, usually at a small table. During this type of visit, you’re generally limited in how much touching can occur. For example, a brief hug at the start and end of the visit may be all that is allowed.

Prior to your visit

Visiting application

Depending on the institution, you might be required to fill out a visiting application. This is a questionnaire that includes your name and address along with questions about your own criminal history. The institution will perform a background check before your visit, so you should answer these questions truthfully to make sure your visitation will be approved. If you provide false information, you can be denied from visiting the inmate. Additional reasons that your visiting application could be denied include the following:

  • You’re a convicted felon
  • You’ve served time in a correctional institution
  • You have outstanding warrants against you
  • The institution deems you a security risk
  • You’re on probation or parole

If your visiting application is denied, you may be able to appeal the decision; however, you must appeal within a specific time frame. Most institutions won’t inform you of your application status, so you need to keep in close contact with them.

Preparing for your visit

Once your visiting application has been approved, if required, you should check the facility’s schedule of visiting hours. Most are available online; however, it’s always a good idea to call and double check, as visiting hours may be cancelled if the facility goes on lockdown or if for any other reason the facility deems it necessary.

Make sure you check the institution’s requirements for proper identification prior to your visit. Correctional facilities may vary in the identification they accept, but generally a valid state-issued photo ID is sufficient. If you’re visiting with a minor, you may have to fill out a special authorization form, and the child may be required to provide a school-issued photo ID or birth certificate to accompany you on the visitation.

  • Dress codes can vary depending on the institution, but most follow these general guidelines:
  • Clothing cannot resemble the inmates’ uniforms or the staff’s clothing. 
  • Medical scrubs and uniforms are prohibited.
  • Shirts and shoes are mandatory.
  • Sheer clothing, and any clothing that exposes a large amount of flesh, is prohibited.
  • Offensive pictures or language on clothing is prohibited.
  • Sleeveless shirts, and shorts and skirts that hit above the knee, are not allowed.
  • Jewelry is restricted.

Visitation

It’s a good idea to arrive to your visitation a few minutes early so that you can fill out any required paperwork. Expect to be searched at the facility parking lot. Your car and everything in it is fair game to be searched by staff. Once you enter the facility, you and your belongings can be searched again, usually by a pat down and a medical detector (and in rare instances, by canine units). 

With the proper preparation, a visit to a jailed friend or loved one can be a less stressful experience. Make sure to always check with the specific institution for their visiting requirements. For a list of county and city jails, including their contact information, see County and City Jails in Colorado

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