Visiting At Taft Federal Prison Camp

It’s 7 P.M. on November 28th. I’ve returned to my assigned cubicle after reading in the quiet room. Moments ago, the compound was closed and inmates were instructed to return to their designated housing units to stand for a special count. The speaker system that permeates throughout the compound issued the instructions repeatedly for several minutes. I’ve learned that special counts are common during the holiday season. Its purpose is to confirm no inmates have escaped. During my seven months here, only one person has escaped and that took place during the 4th of July holiday.

I had planned to write today’s blog from the library; however, with the special count the compound will most likely remain closed. As expected, many inmates are not happy with this because Friday evenings in prison are a big deal. Who wants to be distracted from being able to watch a movie, play ping pong or enjoy card games? I remind myself that this is part of the journey through the system. What is the point of getting angry over things I can’t control? By following this wise approach, I avoid conflict as conflict only leads to trouble. I guarantee that at least one inmate will be escorted to the hole due to their behavior. It happens every time.

Moving along and to get to the heart of this blog, I received two pieces of correspondence today directly related to my blog. I’ve been glowing all afternoon. One message asked me to explore the visiting policies in a federal prison and I felt it would be helpful to all if I posted the information.

In order to receive visitors in a federal prison, the inmate must mail a form, provided by the counselors, to any prospective visitors. Once the person fills out the form and returns it to the camp, the counselor searches a federal database to confirm whether the proposed visitor has been truthful about his or her reporting of a prior criminal record. A criminal record will not preclude one from being added to a visitor list but lying probably will. It generally takes two weeks before the counselor adds the visitor to the inmate’s list of approved visitors. Family identified on the inmate’s PSI (pre-sentence investigation) usually do not have to submit a visiting form.

Visiting a federal prison takes your loved ones into a world of the unknown and it is important that they be prepared. Prisoners should provide visitors with the following information: Days and times when visiting is permitted. (Taft allows visits on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and legal holidays from 8 A.M. to 3 P.M.). Bring rolls of quarters or dollar bills to use in the vending machines, a picture ID and know the prisoner’s name, housing unit and registration number. Do not wear anything revealing or provocative. Khaki pants, white shirts and hats are not allowed.

Taft does not place a limit on how many people an inmate can have on their approved list. We are allowed to kiss and embrace at the beginning and end of the visit. Guards are constantly walking throughout the room to ensure no inappropriate behavior is taking place. Some guards will terminate a visit for the slightest violation.

Inmates at Taft are given 20 visitation points a month. Fridays cost 4 points; Saturdays and legal holidays 8 points and Sunday 6 points. I’m fortunate to have visits almost every Friday. Spending time with friends and family helps me tremendously as I move forward with this journey.

I encourage anyone who anticipates a stay in a prison to take advantage of visits because they provide an opportunity to reconnect while providing a necessary respite from prison.

Justin Paperny

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