The Texas Department of Criminal Justice recently announced the resumption of inmate visitation following the ban imposed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Visiting a family member in jail presents unique challenges, and knowing what to expect can reduce stress and anxiety and better prepare you for a visit.
What should someone reasonably expect when visiting a family member in jail amid challenges like the recent COVID-19 pandemic?
What Types of Visits Are Available?
During the pandemic, online visitations were the only available option to get in touch with a loved one in prison. As of July 2021, contact visitation has become possible for all inmates who had received the COVID-19 vaccination. Each inmate is allowed only two visits per month, which can be contact or non-contact. Each contact visit lasts two hours in length, with the non-contact visit lasting only one hour. Both contact and non-contact visits may consist of two adults and two child visitors at a time.
Who May Visit an Inmate in Jail?
Immediate family, relatives, friends, and colleagues can visit a person in prison. The immediate family may include:
Relatives may also include uncles, grandparents, in-laws, aunts, and cousins.
Other approved visitors include employers and attorneys. Keep in mind, friends on an approved list should not exceed ten individuals per visit.
Notably, the first visit to a correctional facility can be highly stressful, especially for aged parents and other family members with prevailing health conditions. As such, it is advisable that the list of people visiting their relatives be carefully considered.
Tips When Visiting a Family Member in Jail
As of August 31, 2021, persons wishing to visit a family member in jail were allowed to book visitation appointments for subsequent months using the online visitation portal. It is incredibly beneficial to prepare before your visit. Below are tips to help you achieve a positive visitation experience:
Following the procedure set by the institution
The visitation rules and regulations differ from one facility to another. Read through all the guidelines for the institution, and familiarize yourself with the rules.
Fill out visitor information forms and submit
Fill out the standard visitor information and submit it ahead of your visitation. Depending on the facility, some additional information might be required, such as background checks. Make sure you understand and follow preliminary instructions for obtaining a background check where one is needed.
Receive notification of approval
The first step to a successful visitation is to get preapproved. Preapproval means you must be on the approved visitation list of the inmate to visit. The inmate should also complete their portion of visitor information and mail you a copy. It is advisable to call the day before the visit to confirm whether the visit is still scheduled.
Observe the dress codes
It is crucial to keep in mind there is a dress code to observe when visiting an inmate, and failure to follow the code may result in a denied visit. General dress code rules include no revealing clothes, hats or caps, and clothing resembling inmate clothing.
Check if you can bring other items in advance of your visit
Currently, vending machines are operational, and visitors can exchange things with inmates. Depending on the facility you are visiting, check whether you can bring other items during your visit.
Understand the COVID-19 restrictions
Most locations still require visitors to wear a mask. Visitors aged 13 and over who have proof of the most recent vaccination (not more than 14 days before the visit) will not need to take a COVID-19 rapid test before entering the unit. All other visitors must take a COVID-19 rapid test before entering the unit.
You should arrive one hour before the scheduled meeting. Stop at the vehicle checkpoint and comply with vehicle inspection instructions. You should also be prepared to take a COVID-19 screening.
In a nutshell, visiting a family member in jail can be an intimidating and scary experience, especially if it is your first visit. Knowing what to expect can help address some of the questions, fears, or uncertainties you may have. While the specific information you need to know before visiting a loved one varies depending on the facility, the above pointers are an excellent place to start as you prepare for your visit.
Get the Help of a DWI Attorney with a Successful Track Record
If a loved one is in jail for a DWI/DUI charge, they don’t have to sit in jail for longer than they have to. Our attorneys at Stephen T. Bowling can secure a jail release, and any fee you pay to secure your release will apply towards your retainer for representation. Our main focus is on getting you the results you need to avoid jail terms, fines, and hefty penalties. Contact us today to book an initial non-obligatory consultation.