What You Can Bring and Wear When Visiting Your Loved One in Prison
During the 15 years that my brother was in prison he was in at least five different facilities. It didn’t matter if I was visiting the same facility or a different facility, no two visits were the same. So I had to make sure I was prepared for anything. It’s important to know what to bring and wear when visiting prison.
The first thing I tell everyone to do is to read the rules of the facility you are visiting. When my brother first went to prison the internet and social media were not as widely used as it is now. So your benefit is that you can go to the facility’s site to get the information you need and most facilities now do provide this information.
Four Steps For Visiting Your Loved One in Prison and Knowing the Dress Code
There’s 4 steps that you need to know for any visit and the Federal Bureau of Prisons website lists them as: Locate the Inmate, Be Approved, Be Prepared, and Plan Your Trip. Under being prepared they provide a list of the dress code and what you shouldn’t wear. They say to wear clothing that is appropriate for a large gathering of men, women, and young children. Wearing inappropriate clothing (such as provocative or revealing clothes) could result in them denying your visit.
Here’s what they say not to wear, but you should check with the facility that you are visiting for their rules. Keep in mind that this list could apply to mostly any facility that you visit. So don’t wear:
- revealing shorts
- halter tops
- bathing suits
- see-through garments of any type
- crop tops
- low-cut blouses or dresses
- backless tops
- hats or caps
- sleeveless garments
- skirts two inches or more above the knee
- dresses or skirts with a high-cut split in the back, front, or side
- clothing that looks like inmate clothing (khaki or green military-type clothing)
If you do an internet search on “visiting prisons”, the California Department of Corrections (DOC) always seems to display first and has a lot of information on visiting prison, so I’m going to use this as a guideline. According to the California DOC you need to bring some form of identification such as:
- A driver’s license (from any state) with photo;
- A Department of Motor Vehicle identification card (from any state) with photo;
- An armed forces identification card with photo;
- A United States Department of Justice Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) identification card;
- A United States passport with photo or a foreign passport with photo; or
- A photo identification issued by the Mexican Consulate.
If you are bringing a minor with you there is another set of rules that you can must follow if you are the parent, guardian, relative or friend.
What you Can Wear When Visiting Your Loved One in Prison
They also have a long list of what you can wear and this may be one of the most important things to know, because if you are wearing the wrong type of clothing or shoes they can prohibit your visit. If you are like me who had to travel a great distance to visit, the last thing that you want is to be turned away from your visit. Remember that the rules are there so that you are not mistaken for a prisoner by wearing the same color or type of clothes that the inmates wear, but the rules are up to the interpretation of the guards.
So from the California DOC, and remember most facilities are similar, there are four rules to follow about what you should and what you should not wear when visiting prison. They are:
- Do not wear clothing that resembles the clothing that prisoners wear. Some examples are:
- Blue denim pants;
- Blue chambray shirts;
- Orange jumpsuits or Orange tops with Orange bottoms;
- Dresses that resemble prisoner muumuu (female institutions only)
- Do not wear clothing that resembles what custodial staff wear such as:
- Forest green pants;
- Tan shirts; or
- Dress conservatively and modestly; and
- Do not wear any item that cannot be taken off and will not clear a metal detector (such as an underwire bra or clothing with metal buttons).
Here’s a few other specific restrictions that you may not of thought of:
- No wigs, hairpieces, extensions, or other headpieces except for medical reasons and with prior approval;
- No hats or gloves, except with prior approval or in inclement weather; and
- No shower shoes.
And again, remember that interpretation of the rules are up to the guard and just like us, every guard is different. So adhere to these rules.
It’s also a good idea to bring extra clothes if you have a vehicle to store them in. It will not only help you, but can also help others that may have been turned away. I’ve heard many stories from people who have lent people clothes for their visit after they were turned away and I have lent out clothes, too. If a person is given the opportunity to see their loved one, it doesn’t matter if the clothes fit or not: they’ll make it work.
What You Can Bring When Visiting Your Loved One in Prison
You are also limited to what you can bring into the prison and could get turned away if you bring any items that are not on the approved list. Items that are not on the approved list can be construed as contraband by the guard and possibly confiscated. So know the rules of what you can bring into the facility you are visiting. Here are some examples from the California DOC of what you can bring:
- A $50 limit per adult that has to be in denominations of dollar bills, dollar coins and quarters (This is for using the vending machines)
- A small clear, plastic purse or bag;
- Two keys on a ring with no other attachments
- Your identification
- A comb or brush
- A small unopened pack of tissues or a handkerchief; no bandannas;
- A pair of prescription glasses;
- Ten appropriate Photographs
- Documents up to 10 pages and these will be reviewed by staff during processing and you must take them with you when you leave;
- They also have specific rules of what you can bring in for babies and toddlers as well as what you can bring in during inclement weather.
If you need to bring medication into the facility you will need documentation from your doctor stating what it’s for. The medication should be in it’s original pharmacy container and you should only bring in as much as you need during the visit. For medical devices you’ll also need the appropriate documentation and approval from the facility. For some devices such as wheelchairs, they may provide facility-issued devices.
The facility should have lockers for small items like medication.
Lastly it’s important to know what you can wear or bring if you have certain religious traditions that you follow.
According to the the California DOC: If your religion requires you to wear a certain type of clothing that would otherwise be unacceptable by operating procedures, such as Muslim headdress or Catholic habits, you will be allowed to wear the clothing; however, be prepared to remove it for inspection in a private location with an officer of the same gender.
Most visiting rooms have copies of the Bible, the Koran, and the Torah. If you wish to bring in the bible of your faith because a copy is not present in the visiting room, ask the Visiting Sergeant or Lieutenant for permission.
Know the Rules
So make sure to visit the website of the facility that you are going to visit and know their rules. Go to https://theffip.org/site/prison-resources/ for a directory of resources. Know their rules. You can also call the facility and they will provide you with the information that you need. Remember knowledge is power so know your rights and know what you can bring when visiting your loved one.
Prison the Hidden Sentence provides this information in hopes that it will make your visits less stressful so you can enjoy your time with your loved one.