I know the start of summer doesn’t seem like the right time to talk about Christmas, but I disagree. Talking about vacations is never appropriate in my world. And, given how difficult the first half of 2020 has been, I can only imagine how grateful we will be this December when we have the opportunity to spend Christmas with the ones we love.
i talked about it before The importance of access I’ve given advice while you’re serving your sentence what to talk about When you visit someone who is incarcerated.I even threw what’s the holiday like When you’re behind bars.
But today, I’m going to answer a simple question about Christmas and prison visits that I see a lot but never answer directly. The topic of today’s blog post is: Can you visit someone in prison at Christmas?
In this blog post, I’ll cover the following topics:
- Christmas visiting rules for federal prisoners
- Christmas visiting rules for state inmates
- What’s Christmas like in prison?
Christmas visiting rules for federal prisoners
Family and friends of federal prison inmates are allowed social visitation on Christmas Day, even if the holiday falls outside the regular visiting days of Friday, Saturday and Sunday. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, visitation is permitted between 8:00 am and 3:00 pm on Christmas Day.
Visitors are admitted to the lobby area at 7:45 am and to the visiting rooms until 2 pm. However, visitor traffic will cease at the front gate of the complex at 9:30 am and visitors will not be admitted until the 10:00 am count is cleared.
This means you need to arrive by 9:30am, otherwise you won’t be allowed into the visiting room until around 10:30am, which is usually the time to clear at 10:00am. FYI, “counting” means prison staff counting all prisoners to make sure no one goes missing from the facility. These counts were performed five to six times a day, during which time the prisoners were not allowed to move.
Up to five visitors are allowed to visit an inmate at a time, but children 15 and under do not count towards the total.
Keep in mind that visiting rooms can be busy during the holidays. Expect your Christmas visit to be loud, crowded and short. In order to ensure that every inmate has the opportunity to visit their loved ones during the holidays, if there is a waiting list, the visiting room will implement a first-in, first-out rotation system.
You will most likely have a time limit of an hour or two, but this will vary by facility.
Christmas visiting rules for state inmates
Unlike federal prisons, not every state prison will open visiting rooms on Christmas Day. To find out if your loved one’s facility allows Christmas visitation, click on the PrisonInsight Correctional Facility Directory to find the name of the prison you want to research.
In the Access Rules section of the listing, you should see the access hours for the facility. If we are unable to locate the information online, we will provide a phone number for you to call for more information.
Christmas visiting hours vary by location. However, as with federal facilities, you should expect visiting rooms in state facilities to be noisy and crowded.
What’s Christmas like in prison?
For the most part, Christmas in prison is like any other day in prison — it sucks. Yes, you might get a little more than usual lunch special in the cafeteria, but that’s about it. I’ll give WERDCC a shout out on this because that’s where I was incarcerated and the donations we received resulted in really great Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. However, not every facility is like this.
We also receive a “Christmas Pack” each year thanks to volunteers and donations. This annual gift is a plastic bag filled with different kinds of treats and candies. These bags are the equivalent of receiving a stimulus check because they are effectively pumping money into the prison economy.
People often trade their peanut butter cookies for a packet of instant coffee, or their popcorn patties for a bag of snack-sized chocolate chip cookies. The bags trade and volume look like the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Another big change for Christmas is the phone lines. Since nearly everyone wants to speak to their loved ones, calls can go on for hours, and it can sometimes be difficult to get close to a phone if you’re not qualified.
No Christmas decorations or presents. You look around and you don’t even know it’s Christmas. Needless to say, this is a better experience in the free world.
Have you visited anyone in prison at Christmas? What was your experience like? Let us know in the comments below.