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How to Visit an Inmate

Know proper procedures and permissions for visiting an inmate in federal correctional facilities like Lewisburg, state penitentiaries like San Quentin, or local facilities like Rikers Island.


  • Step 1: Go to for state corrections department websites. To visit state and local inmates, get prison contact info to obtain visiting hours and requirements.
  • Step 2: Contact the prison staff to send you a visitor information form. Fill it out and send it back. Prison staff will do a background check for a visit approval.
  • FACT: In 2007, California became the first state to allow overnight conjugal visits for same-sex partners of state prison inmates.
  • TIP: Unacceptable visiting room dress includes halter tops, see-through garments, spandex, miniskirts, hats, or caps.
  • Step 3: Get the prison handbook. Read the section on visiting procedures including dress code, visitor ID requirements, and authorized items for the visiting room.
  • Step 4: Use the BOP's online Facility Locator to find a specific Federal Prison's general visiting information such as visiting hours for family and friends.
  • Step 5: Get on an inmate's visitor list. The inmate will send you a visitor info form. Fill it out and send it to the prison staff for a background check and approval.
  • TIP: Visitors with prior criminal records will need a written authorization for visits to an inmate.
  • Step 6: Go to the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) website to locate where a federal inmate is being held. Search by the inmate's name or ID number.

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