I was blessed with a 3 day visit from my bride last weekend. The thrill of sitting, talking and briefly holding the love of your life is priceless. (I had to come to prison to figure this out?). While I was in visitation, several issues popped up that interfered with the visits of several other prisoners. I thought I would share these issues so others can avoid them.

First and foremost, If you are going to visit someone in prison, you have to be on their approved visiting list. A family drove 7 hours to visit a fellow prisoner and his grandmother was turned away at the door because she was not on the prisoner’s visitation list. Getting on the list is fairly easy, it just takes a bit of time. Go to the BOP website and download the visitor information form (BP-AO629). Fill it out completely and mail it to your prisoner’s counselor at your prisoner’s mailing address. (You need to get the counselor’s name). It takes about 2 weeks to be approved so some planning is required.
The next thing a visitor needs to do is is read the visitation rules, in particular, the dress code to avoid problems upon arrival. Last year my son was denied access to the visiting room at Jesup because He was wearing Khaki pants. ( our uniforms were khaki in Jesup). He changed into his pajama bottoms and walked right in! The prison visitation room rules are posted on the individual prison websites.

Last weekend, a guy in our unit, Dan, had a visit from his wife and 3 children. They were in the visiting room for 15 minutes and the Captain came by and told her that she had to leave because her jeans were inappropriate. He jeans were new but had fashion slits cut into the thighs. A loud verbal argument ensured between Dan’s wife and the corrections officer. She was removed with 3 crying children from the visitation room.(never argue with a corrections officer!) Later, Dan was called to control and informed that the Captain had banned his wife from visitation for 1 year! (draconian?). All of this could have been avoided by simply reading and complying with the visitation dress code.

The capacity of prison visitation is limited. They were designed many years ago when the prisons had far fewer prisoners. The prison population has grown dramatically over the past 20 years. The visitation rooms have not expanded with the population. People have been turned away and forced to wait hours to see their loved ones. To avoid this situation, it is best to arrive at the beginning of visitation hours to avoid being denied access. Arriving early, also enables you to obtain chairs and perhaps a table to sit at during your visit. It is frustrating to visit standing up.

Make sure that you bring quarters and dollars in a clear plastic bag or purse for the vending machines. It is a substantial treat for a prisoner to eat from the visitation room vending machines. (sad, but true).

Finally, know that a visit is the best gift a prisoner can receive. Being able to talk face to face with a friend or loved one is a substantial morale booster.

Ken Flaska

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