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The procedure to visit an inmate in jail varies depending on the policies of the facility, but people usually need to apply to schedule a visit and comply with certain regulations during their visit. It is usually easier to visit those in jail than in prison, and this should be a consideration when an inmate transfers to a different facility. The requirements for visitors can change between facilities, and visitors will usually need to apply all over again.
When people are held in jail, the jail can ask them for a list of approved visitors. This includes attorneys and their assistants, family members, and anyone else the inmate would like to see. When people apply to visit, the jail determines if they are on the list before scheduling a visit. Family members and friends who want to visit an inmate in jail will need to do so during scheduled visiting hours, and usually need to make plans in advance by filing a request to visit.
The jail will review the application and provide visitors with a date and time to see an inmate in jail. The number of visitors is usually limited for security reasons, and visitors may only be able to stay for a set number of hours a week. On the day of the visit, visitors need to dress conservatively and bring photo identification for jail officials to inspect. Purses and bags usually need to be left behind, and visitors cannot bring things into the prison without making prior arrangements.
Attorneys and their staff have more leeway to visit an inmate in jail because they are providing legal services. They are entitled to private rooms to meet with prisoners and can visit at times other than scheduled visiting hours. An attorney making a jailhouse visit will need to abide by the rules concerning apparel and bringing objects into the prison, but attorneys can bring in paperwork and related materials for meetings with inmates.
People who plan to visit an inmate in jail or prison should be aware that lock-downs can limit visiting hours. If a security situation arises and the facility needs prisoners back in their rooms, it can cut off visits or cancel visiting hours altogether. Usually there will be no opportunity to make up missed or shortened visits.
For prison visits, the procedure is usually similar. Visitors will need to have a prisoner number when they file an application, and typically need to make a request a month in advance. The prison will determine the date and time of the visit and send information.