When you are preparing to visit someone in prison for the first time, you will most likely have a lot of questions. It’s a whole different world when you walk into a DOC or BOP property. There are rules about absolutely everything – even for tourists from the free world.
Prior to entering a prison visiting room, approval must be obtained from a corrections officer. When you arrive, make sure it’s the right time at the right time. You can’t get there too early or too late.
In addition to keeping time, you must dress appropriately and have strict restrictions on what you can bring with you. In fact, you could face criminal charges if you bring the wrong item to a prison visit.
Today I want to talk to you about the regulations on what items can be brought in the prison visiting room, as well as about electronic equipment. So, let’s answer today’s blog post question: Can you document prison visits?
In this blog post, I’ll cover the following topics:
- Items allowed in prison visiting rooms
- How to Document a Prison Visit
- Video Access and Recorded Calls
Items allowed in prison visiting rooms
Whenever a prison opens its doors to visitors, there is a security risk. When people from the free world come into contact with prison inmates, contraband is brought into the facility.
Whether prison staff or visitors, people outside can access items that are not permitted inside prison walls. This poses a serious threat to the safety and security of the facility, and regulations regarding contraband are very strict.
If you are caught trying to smuggle drugs or weapons into prison, you will face criminal charges. Some states also make it a crime for anyone to bring electronic devices onto prison grounds.
Mobile phones, smart watches, tablets and cameras are not allowed during the visits. That means the answer to today’s blog question is pretty clear – no, you can’t record prison visits.
Any attempt to bring recording equipment into prison visiting rooms will not end well for either the visitors or the prisoners.
Some of the items that visitors are allowed to bring into the visiting room are: a quarter from a vending machine, a car key and a photo ID. These three things are fairly common when it comes to prison visiting rooms.
Some facilities allow you to bring photos and legal documents. Most will allow visitors to bring emergency life-saving medication. Visitors with small children can also bring items needed to care for the baby.
All other items should remain in your car or in a visitor locker.
How to Document a Prison Visit
The only way visitors (not the inmate’s lawyers) can document a prison visit is if they are members of the media. During my time in prison, I did get a lot of interview requests. Due to strict rules, most of my interviews are conducted by phone.
One media outlet, however, did jump through all the hurdles set up by the U.S. Department of Commerce. They arrived at the prison with the approval of the warden and I was interviewed in the visiting room and videotaped.
This does not happen on regular visit days. During my interview, it was just me, a guard, reporter and photographer in the visiting room.
Getting approval for in-person media visits is not easy. Some facilities will halt all attempts to interview prisoners, while others will make decisions on a case-by-case basis.
Video Access and Recorded Calls
Visitors are not allowed to document their prison visits, but they do often do so on camera. Many facilities have video visits, and sometimes this is the only visit option. While most inmates have access to face-to-face visits with loved ones, those who live in megaprisons and large prisons may not have that option.
Some high-security prisons have eliminated in-person visits altogether, while other facilities have added video visits as an option for visitors who cannot travel to the physical location of the prison.
All video visits are monitored and recorded, as are prisoners’ phones. For obvious reasons, prison officials dislike any form of communication between their prisoners and outsiders that is not monitored and/or recorded.
Have you ever had a video visit with an inmate? Is it from home or from the factory? Let us know in the comments below.