Prisoner visitation rights are an essential part of the American penal system, allowing inmates to maintain contact with family, friends, and other members of the outside community. As of May 2013, there were 218,171 inmates across the country. That’s 0.7% of adults in the U.S. resident population. For those 218,171 people, continued contact with their friends and loved ones can be critical to the maintenance of psychological morale and the adjustment back into the outside community. For those reasons, the Federal Bureau of Prisons recognizes prisoner visitation rights and has established regulations surrounding them.
Regulations for Prisoner Visitation Rights
According to the FBP, the warden must allow each inmate a minimum of four hours of visiting time every month. The warden can also establish monthly limits for the maximum hours of visitation. It is the responsibility of prisoners to submit a list of proposed regular visitors to the designated staff who will review the list to determine whether the persons on the list are qualified before compiling a visiting list. All institutions provide visiting hours on weekends and holidays, though there are some who offer additional times.
Special visitors, those who are not in need of follow up visits and will not become recurring visitors, must be authorized by the warden. Such visitors might be business representatives managing the inmates financial property, consular representatives, parole advisers, former or prospective employers, or sponsors. The warden might deny a visitor request if a thorough investigation reveals the prospective visitor to be a threat or danger to the institution or inmate.
Regardless of whether the visitor is a recurring or special visitor, the warden must supply a vising room arranged to provide adequate supervision that is pleasant and comfortable.
The Future of Prison Visitation
New technology is allowing prisoner visitation rights to be met in a different way. Inmate video visitation systems reduce the number of staff members needed to conduct visits by reducing the movement of inmates, making it easier for wardens to schedule more frequent visits for inmates. Essentially, such systems allow prisoners to video chat with friends and family members, allowing families to visit from their own homes without the expense and time involved in travelling to the incarceration facility.
The benefits for the facility are numerous. Authorized personnel can easily conduct, monitor, interact with, and terminate any live, simultaneous visit using command keys. Commands are available to allow supervisors to stop listening, listen unobtrusively, interact, mute, and terminate live sessions. Recordings are also immediately available for playback. Essentially, it takes fulfillment of prisoner visitation rights out of the hands of jails and prisons, putting the burden of scheduling and administration on family and friends while still allowing monitoring, management, and control by the facility.