If you are visiting a friend or family member in prison, then you should prepare properly by checking the rules and regulations that are put in place to govern what visitors to secure facilities can and cannot do.
Being aware of the visiting times that are available should be at the top of your agenda, and it is unhelpful to assume that because you are familiar with how these are organized in one part of the country, they will be the same elsewhere.
To bring you up to speed, here is a quick overview of how visiting times compare from state to state, and how you can find out what windows will be available for your own prison visit.
State & facility-level differences
The first thing to note is that it is not necessarily the state authorities that are directly responsible for determining prison visiting times within their jurisdiction, but the facility management themselves who may cast the deciding vote.
This is evidenced by the fact that state-level information on visiting times is scarce, so for example if you want to work out when you can go and see an inmate housed in a North Carolina facility, here’s a good starting point.
Things have been complicated further by the ongoing pandemic, meaning new requirements are being put in place on top of existing ones. Once again using North Carolina as an example, all prison visits are now limited to 30 minutes maximum, demonstrating that there are some aspects which are enforced at the state level.
Visit duration & other variables
We have already touched upon the aspects of a prison visit which can vary, such as the amount of time you can spend with an inmate, and it is worth exploring this in more detail.
Once again, the facilities will generally be responsible for orchestrating the specifics of a visit, even if in exceptional circumstances like the COVID crisis, additional involvement from the state authorities is inevitable.
The length of the visit can vary from one hour to several, and it is usually prisons with large outdoor areas and lower levels of security, with lower risk inmates, that are more liberal with regards to how much time visitors are allowed to spend on-site.
When it comes to visiting a prison, the timing and duration are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the preparations you will need to make.
All prisons will have strict guidelines that cover things like the clothing you must wear, the items you can bring with you and whether or not you can physically touch the person you are visiting; a barrier or divide of some kind may prevent this altogether in certain facilities.
Reading all the available information and getting in touch with the facility itself to apply for visitation rights and book a time to arrive should all be carried out well in advance, so that you not only know what to expect, but are also expected on the day you turn up.