Visits by family and friends are encouraged and can be a positive influence during an individual’s time in prison, as well as after release. Research has shown that those who receives regular visits adjust much better once they are released from prison when the privilege is used to maintain a positive relationship.
In addition to enhancing the safety of our correctional facilities, DOCCS wants to ensure that visits are family friendly and the visiting experience for the incarcerated population and their loved ones is positive.
Visitors who violate rules may be prosecuted and/or lose visiting privileges. Rules are established to keep everyone safe and ensure a positive experience.
Directions and Mileage
Correctional facilities are sometimes hard to find and may take longer to reach than originally anticipated. When looking into traveling to a facility, please refer to the address of the correctional facility. You can obtain directions to any of the correctional facilities on the DOCCS website, the Internet, or by calling a specific facility.
Who Can Visit
With little exception, anyone can visit as long as it is during visiting hours, the visitor has proper identification, and the individual visited agrees to the visit. Make sure you know how many visitors may visit at one time because each facility is different.
Sometimes special arrangements for extra visitors can be made through the Superintendent’s Office with advance notice of several weeks or a month. You can call the facility to find out about special arrangements.
All visitors are required to sign a statement indicating that they have been advised of and agree to abide by the rules and regulations regarding visiting.
NOTE: Superintendents may deny, limit, suspend, or revoke the visitation privileges of any offender or visitor if they have reasonable cause to believe that such action is necessary to maintain the safety, security, and order of the facility.
Special Permission Visitors
The following individuals can visit only with special permission:
- Persons currently under community supervision or probation.
- Department employees.
- Current, active Department volunteers.
- Current contract employees.
- Persons with pending or past criminal proceedings may be denied pending approval by the Superintendent.
If any of these conditions applies to you, you should seek permission by writing to the Superintendent in advance of your desire to visit to receive approval. Superintendents may deny visiting privileges to visitors with criminal histories when the visitor’s presence could create a threat to the security and order of the facility.
Criteria to be considered includes, but is not limited to, the purpose of the proposed visit, the institutional adjustment of the former offender, the nature of the pending criminal proceeding, and the time between release and the proposed visit.
NOTE: In addition to the Superintendent’s approval, probationers and parolees will also require written approval from their Probation and/or Parole Officer.
Visiting Days and Times
Before the visit, make sure to confirm your visit and be there on the correct day.
It important to learn, in advance, as much as possible about the facility you are going to visit. Contact the facility prior to your initial visit to determine its visiting policy.
Except in cases of emergency and during instances of termination, suspension, or revocation of the visitor’s privileges, the number, length, and frequency of visits by each visitor will be limited only as necessary to accommodate all visitors arriving during the scheduled visiting time.
Visiting days and times are different for each facility. They are influenced by the security level and population concerns of the facility. At many facilities, you may visit only on certain days of the week, for example, by last name or offender’s DIN.
Visiting hours also vary by facility. Some may include evening hours while others don't. Sometimes visiting rooms become very crowded, at which time some visitors are informed that they must leave because others are waiting for visits.
As a general rule, maximum security facilities have visiting on a daily basis. Medium and minimum security facilities have visiting on weekends and holidays. Work Release facilities have visiting for offenders in restriction units only. Shock Incarceration offenders have visiting every other weekend.
NOTE: Offenders designated with Special Housing Unit (SHU) status are limited to one visit per week, excluding approved legal visits. Contact the facility for that individual's specific visiting schedule.
Visitor Processing Areas & Visiting Rooms
Processing is slightly different at every correctional facility. Some facilities have a Visitor Hospitality Center where you can wait, change clothes, get a cup of coffee, and relax until you are called for your visit.
Visiting Rooms also vary. Some visiting rooms are like high school cafeterias with chairs, tables, and vending machines. Others have a counter that winds around the room where offenders sit on one side and visitors on the other side. In that instance, offenders will sit facing the Correction Officer’s desk.
Generally, once you are in the visiting room, you cannot leave without terminating your visit.
There are vending machines in the visiting room or in a nearby room, so it is a good idea to bring change for the vending machines. There are restrooms in the area as well.
Depending on the correctional facility, activities for children vary. Most facilities have a specialized area where children can watch videos and play games. Normally, you cannot take toys or stuffed animals into the visiting room.
Offenders have the right to refuse visits. You will be notified by the officer in charge of the visiting room when the offender has refused the visit.
Visitors are required to provide proof of identification to visit individuals in DOCCS custody, including the following:
- Acceptable forms of photo identification must be valid and current (not expired), and may include:
- A driver’s license with photo
- A Department of Motor Vehicles non-driver photo identification
- Government issued photo identification
- Armed Services I.D. with photo
- Employment identification with a photo
To ensure faster processing, you can use the same identification at every visit, regardless of who you visit and where you visit. Your photograph will also be taken for the visitor identification system.
For minor children only, birth or baptismal certificates may be used for identification.
Lawyers and other persons entering for official visits can use:
- A government issued employee photo identification
- A court issued employee picture identification or a Unified Court System attorney secure pass identification card
Visitors Under 18 Years of Age:
- Minors must be escorted by an adult who is approved to visit or an adult in an official capacity with proper identification and the approval of Superintendents or their designees. The adult escort will be responsible for the behavior and conduct of the minor while on facility property, as well as identification of the minor.
- Children of offenders will be allowed to visit without written permission. The offender’s name should appear on the child’s birth certificate as verification of relationship. No visit will be permitted if a court order prohibiting such visit is on file with the facility.
- Children of offenders 16 years of age and older will be admitted without adult escort.
- Unmarried minors under 18 years of age must have written permission from their parent or guardian to visit an offender, if they are not accompanied by their parent or guardian. Written permission may be mailed to the facility in advance or presented by the accompanying adult at the time of the visit.
- Married persons under 18 years of age who are related to an offender do not need the permission of a parent, guardian, or an adult escort in order to visit an offender. However, proof of age and marriage will be required.
Following is a checklist to ensure you are prepared for the visit:
- Confirm that the offender has not been transferred and has visitation privileges.
- Bring valid photo identification.
- If you have made special arrangements with the facility, call before leaving to ensure that plans for your visit have been made and are in place.
- Check clothing and jewelry for compliance with visiting regulations.
- If you are bringing a child and you are not the legal guardian or parent, be sure you have a notarized statement from the child’s parent or legal guardian.
- Arrive on the designated day during proper visiting hours.
- Leave purses, wallets, and electronic devices in the glove compartment or in the trunk of your car. Be sure to lock your car!
- Do not leave minor children waiting in the car or your visit will be ended.
- Do not have any contraband on you when you enter the facility.
- Treat correctional staff with respect.
Do not bring anything into the visiting room to give to the offender. Offenders are not permitted to take anything from the visiting area.
Before leaving home, check your vehicle for contraband and/or hazardous items and be sure to remove these items before entering correctional facility grounds. This includes, but is not limited to:
- implements of escape
- drug paraphernalia
- items posing a danger to others
- weapons, such as knives, scissors, or firearms
- items used to show a gang affiliation