The primary ways to stay in touch with your loved are phone calls, letters, and emails. All of which are possible in the Bureau of Prisons. Inmates will have to pay for phone calls, emails and postage on letters and you should be aware that any form of communication may be monitored by the prison. But please don’t let that stop you from contacting your loved one. One of the biggest determinations of success after prison is maintaining strong connections with friends and family while in prison. Visit the BOP website for more specifics on phone calls, letters and emails.

Family and friends can also visit federal prisons. When your loved one arrives at the prison, they will be asked to create a visiting list. You may also be asked to fill out a form before you are approved for visitation. After you’re approved to visit, you should visit the BOP website, and look at any specific rules about visitation at the facility your loved one is assigned to. Rules surrounding visits may vary by institution and by security level. Below is some general advice to help your visit go smoothly.

Bring your identification. When you visit you will be required to show your government issued ID and the prison will make a record of your visit. Visitors under 16 and accompanied by a parent or guardian will not need an ID.

You may be searched. When you arrive for your visit you will need to pass through security. The security screening will almost always include a metal detector, and will sometimes include a physical pat down or being screened by a drug detecting device. If you’re bringing a child with you, you may want to prepare them for this experience by explaining ahead of time what will happen when you arrive.

Dressing for your visit. When you visit the institution, you should be careful to wear conservative clothing- stay away from anything too tight or short. You may need to pass through a metal detector, so limiting anything on your person that contains metal is helpful, including wearing a bra that contains no underwire.

Again, visiting the prison website to look at the rules for visitation will be helpful. This is a sample dress code policy, and is generally good advice for any institution.

A good piece of advice is if you’re going for a visit, bring extra clothes in the car. That way, if something you are wearing does not suit the prison on that day, you can return to the car and change clothes and not miss your visit.

Hug and enjoy your human! The visits with your loved one will be supervised by prison staff, but to the extent that you can, ignore that and just enjoy your time together. Most prisons will allow some physical contact, usually a hug or embrace at the beginning and the end of the visit. While this time together is not enough, it is a way to help your bond stay strong and we would encourage you to visit with your loved one as often as your life allows.