What to Know About Federal Prison Camp Visitation

Facing time in a minimum-security federal prison camp is an intimidating experience for both the person impacted by the justice system and their family members. The uncertainties, the apprehension about the environment, and being away from family and friends can be distressing. If you or someone you know is preparing for a stint in a white-collar, minimum-security facility, keeping up visitations is crucial to managing the period of separation from your loved ones. Research has underscored that maintaining these connections significantly boosts an inmate’s prospects for achieving success post-release.

Federal Prison Camps (FPCs) are the lowest security facilities within the federal prison system, designed for non-violent offenders and typically house inmates who have committed white-collar crimes. Unlike higher security prisons, FPCs do not necessarily have walls or fences and offer more freedom of movement for inmates. Despite that, a Federal Prison Camp is still federal prison and it should be noted visitation is one of the most closely-watched and regulated components of a justice-impacted individual’s incarceration.

Submit Your Visitation Form

To visit any person at a Federal Prison Camp, you must submit a form to request placement on the visitation list and you must be cleared by the Bureau of Prisons. The BOP prioritizes family (defined as parents, step-parents, foster parents, brothers, sisters, spouses, children, grandparents, uncles, aunts, in-laws, and cousins) as well as members of religious groups, civic groups, employers (former or prospective), sponsors, parole advisors, and attorneys, though anyone with a connection to the person may submit paperwork. A person can have up to 10 friends or associates on their visitation list at any given time.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons visitation form (found here) requires you provide some basic information about the incarcerated individual including their institution, name, and register number. If you need to find a person’s register number, you can find it on the BOP Inmate Locator website by searching for their name. It’s important this form is filled out completely, including with the name that matches the visitor’s drivers license or identification. It’s also critical people disclose whether they have been convicted of a crime before – a prior conviction will not necessarily disqualify the person from visiting, but lying about it will. Sadly, we have seen family members disqualified from visiting for failing to disclose a DUI from thirty years ago.

Once complete, you will then mail this form to the counselors at the appropriate Federal Prison Camp. You can find the appropriate mailing address through the BOP Inmate Locator, by searching for the incarcerated individual, clicking the name of their institution, then selecting “Staff Mail.” If you know the name of the counselor assigned to your loved one, address it to that specific counselor. If not, “Counselor Staff” will suffice.

Once the request form is received at the institution, it generally takes 4-6 weeks for approval. During this time, the BOP may conduct a criminal background check.

Once the review is complete, the incarcerated individual will be notified via letter whether there is a new person added to their visitation form or if the request has been denied. It is your loved one’s responsibility to notify you whether you’ve been approved or denied and they may check on the status of your form by speaking with their counselor.

Note: Every time an incarcerated individual transfers to a new location, their visitation list is reset and those interested in visiting must re-submit their paperwork for approval.

Visitation Rules

  • Scheduling: Visits are usually allowed on weekends and holidays. However, it’s essential to check with the specific facility for their visitation schedule as hours and dates may vary. For more information on visiting schedules, check the official page for the appropriate BOP facility. In certain circumstances, visits may be permitted outside of visiting hours though such approvals are rare. Special visits are typically approved for legal reasons or under special family circumstances. Approval for such a visit must be obtained by the incarcerated individual who will make such a request to their Unit Manager. If you are interested in visiting, you cannot show up unannounced: your incarcerated loved one must register for a slot in visitation for that week.
  • Dress Code: Dress modestly and in clothing that is appropriate for a large gathering of men, women, and young children. Avoid wearing clothes that are too revealing or could be considered inappropriate. The following items are generally not permitted: revealing shorts, miniskirts, halter tops, backless tops, bathing suits, see-through garments of any type, sleeveless garments, crop tops, skirts two-inches or more above the knee, low-cut blouses or dresses, dresses or skirts with a high-cut split, leotards, and spandex. You may be turned away for inappropriate dress, and it is left to the officer on duty whether you will be allowed to return after changing your clothes.
  • Physical Contact: Handshakes, hugs, and kisses (in good taste) are generally permitted at the beginning and end of a visit. Individuals who have gone too far with physical contact have been penalized in a substantial way (including the loss of visitation and being sent to the SHU). Staff may limit contact for security reasons and to keep the visiting area orderly. The Federal Bureau of Prisons does not permit conjugal visits.
  • Identification: Bring a valid photo ID. All visitors, regardless of age, must have proper identification.
  • Children: Children are allowed to visit but they must be supervised at all times. Some facilities may have a designated play area for children.

What to Expect During Your Visit

  • Security Checks
    • Thorough Screening: Upon arrival at the federal prison camp, visitors should expect a security screening process. This is to ensure the safety of all individuals within the facility and to prevent the introduction of contraband.
    • Metal Detectors: Just like at airports, visitors may be required to pass through metal detectors. Ensure you’re not wearing excessive metal jewelry or carrying items that might set off the detector. If you have medical implants or devices that might trigger the alarm, inform the security personnel in advance.
    • Pat-downs: In addition to metal detectors, visitors might be subjected to pat-down searches. This is a standard procedure, and it’s essential to cooperate fully with the staff. Remember, these measures are in place for everyone’s safety.
  • Behavior
    • Adherence to Rules: The prison environment operates on a strict set of rules and guidelines. As a visitor, it’s imperative to familiarize yourself with these rules and adhere to them at all times. This includes following the dress code, respecting designated visiting areas, and avoiding restricted topics of conversation.
    • Respectful Interaction: Always interact respectfully with both the prison staff and inmates. Avoid raising your voice, using profanity, or engaging in confrontational behavior. Remember, the staff is there to ensure a safe environment for everyone.
    • Consequences of Disruption: It’s crucial to understand that any disruptive behavior, no matter how minor it may seem, could result in the immediate termination of your visit. In some cases, it might also lead to a temporary or permanent ban from future visits.
  • Emotional Preparedness:
    • Anticipate Emotional Responses: The experience of visiting a loved one in prison can be overwhelming. You might feel a mix of sadness, anger, relief, or even guilt. It’s essential to recognize and accept these feelings as a natural part of the process.
    • Inmate’s Emotional State: Your loved one, the inmate, might also be experiencing a range of emotions. They could be anxious about the visit, regretful about their actions, or simply relieved to see a familiar face. Be patient and understanding, and try to offer them comfort and support.
    • Seek Support: If you find the visits particularly challenging, consider seeking support. This could be in the form of counseling, joining a support group for families of inmates, or simply talking to friends and family about your feelings. Remember, it’s okay to seek help when dealing with challenging situations.

Other Important Things to Know About Visitation

  • The availability of visitation and the rules governing it at federal prison camps are subject to change, especially in response to unforeseen health risks or crises. For instance, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many correctional facilities temporarily suspended in-person visitations to mitigate the spread of the virus and protect both inmates and the public. It’s essential for visitors to stay informed about the latest guidelines and restrictions, as they can be updated or modified based on the evolving nature of health threats. Regularly checking with the specific prison camp’s official page, where the BOP offers a Modified Operations indicator, will help.
  • Understand these rules and regulations are subject to change and may do so rapidly, sometimes on an interim basis, especially as specific institutions combat security challenges.

Additional Resources