The visit will likely be conducted either via a telephone and closed circuit tv screen or through a dividing glass wall. Prepare yourself for the fact that you might not be allowed to make any physical contact with your loved one during the visit. You may not pass them any notes, money or personal items. Visitation rooms tend to get crowded and hectic during open hours. People from all walks of life will surround you. Be respectful of them and their right to visit their loved ones but don’t be afraid to ask that others are respectful of your visit as well. If someone is interfering with your right to have a meaningful visit with your loved one, notify a corrections officer.
Prepare what you want to talk about
Plan ahead regarding what you want to discuss with your loved one during the visit. Time will be limited to about 15-30 minutes, and extensions are not likely to be granted. To avoid running out of time, make a list of the things that need to be addressed. Important talking points include:
- Does your loved one require you to bring prescription medication to the jail?
- Is there housing or employment issues that need o to be taken care of for your or your loved one while they’re incarcerated?
- Does your loved one need help retaining an attorney?
As a general matter, county jails will not allow inmates to release items in their personal property to civilians; however, most prisons make exceptions for crucial things like house keys and government benefit cards. If you need to retrieve something from your loved one’s belongings, you will have to fill out the proper documentation first.
Never discuss the facts of a pending criminal case when visiting. While most jail visits are not recorded (unlike inmate phone calls), you never know who is listening. If you have relevant, confidential information regarding the case, its best to go through an attorney rather than tell them in person.
Though it may be difficult, try to keep the conversation as positive as possible. Remind your loved one that you support them and encourage them to take part in any programming provided at the jail such as anger management classes or AA meetings.
Expect a request for money
Prepare yourself for the fact that your loved one will likely ask you to give them some money for phone calls and commissary. Commissary is similar to a general store that operates within the jail. Inmates can buy snacks, toiletries, and other personal items to help make their stay more tolerable. You will not be allowed to hand over cash during your visit, but you may be able to transfer money to your loved one using a kiosk in the lobby. The officials at the jail will have information about transferring money.
Know the rules and follow them
Don’t ask for special treatment from the jail officials or corrections officers. Respect the rules and follow them at all times while at the jail. It’s important to be polite to the corrections officers. Although the officers may not always show you the same courtesy, try to remember that they have a very stressful and challenging job. If you think you are being treated poorly, explain how you called ahead to learn the rules, what you were told, and what you need. Then politely ask to speak to a supervisor.