To visit an inmate in Federal Prison, you must be on the inmate's approved visiting list. The inmate gives a list of proposed visitors to staff, who investigate the proposed visitors before putting anyone to the list. The list includes:
- Immediate family: mother, father, step-parent(s), foster parent(s), brothers and sisters, spouse, and children. (Common-law spouses are considered immediate family if the state recognizes common-law marriages.)
- Other relatives: grandparents, uncles, aunts, in-laws, and cousins.
- Friends and associates: usually, an inmate's visiting list should not include more than 10 friends and associates.
When an inmate arrives at an institution, he/she receives an institution handbook that has visiting procedures, including:
- prison address/phone number, directions, and information about local transportation
- days and hours of visitation
- approved dress code
- items authorized in the visiting room
- special rules for children
- items visitors may bring to give to the inmate
- identification requirements for visitors
- special visitor requirements
An initial visiting list is ordinarily established within a few days. It includes immediate family members approved to visit. Additional family members and friends may be added following investigation.
The inmate is responsible for giving each approved visitor the visiting guidelines and directions to the prison.
Other types of approved visitors
- for foreign inmates (i.e., non-U.S. citizens), officials from their home country's embassy or consulate
- members of religious and civic groups
- clergy, former or prospective employers, sponsors, and parole advisors, when the visit is to help with release planning and discussion of family problems
- attorney visits: special rules apply for attorneys. Attorney visits are private and usually take place somewhere other than the visiting room. See P.S.1315.07, Legal Activities, Inmate.
If you have previously been convicted of a crime, staff will decide, based on what sort of crime and how recent it was, whether you will be allowed to visit. If you are on probation, parole, or supervised release, you are required to have written authorization to visit.
Children under 16 must have an adult with them when they visit. Their parent or guardian must approve their placement on the visiting list. Some institutions have programs for young children during visitation.
Pets are not allowed. Only assistance dogs that help a visitor with a disability are allowed. You must show certification that the dog is trained for that purpose.
Federal Prison Visiting Hours
Each Federal prison has set up certain days and times, called "visiting hours," for family and friends to visit inmates. There are more than 105 prisons, and visiting hours may vary depending on location and other factors. Some prisons have different types of inmates with different visiting needs. Some have more space and other facilities available for visiting than others.
All institutions have visiting hours on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays; and most have them at other times during the week. Individual prisons can set up evening hours.
The inmate you plan to visit should tell you what the hours are for that prison. If you have any question about a particular prison's hours, call that prison or use our online Facility Locator tool to find the visiting hours for the prison.
By law, an inmate gets at least four hours of visiting time per month. Usually, the prison can provide more. The Warden can decide to restrict the length of visits or the number of people who can visit at once, to avoid overcrowding in the visiting room. Sometimes the prison may have to limit visiting per inmate to one day on a weekend, because it is the most popular time to visit.
Prisons try to allow for families' special circumstances, such as the distance you have to travel or health problems. Staff can help with directions, including how to get there by public transportation when available; but there is no Government payment or reimbursement for transportation. Again, call the prison before you travel for a visit.