Visiting an inmate in California

Visiting Application and Rules for Visiting an inmate in California

Maintaining relationships and communication by visiting with friends and family members is one of the most important things in an inmates rehabilitation success.  All visitors are encouraged to use every opportunity they can to visit their inmate.  Before you visit, you will need to understand both the process of visitation, and the procedures you will need to follow to have a successful visit.  The following are some important things you need to know about visiting an inmate in California:

  • Anyone who wants to visit an inmate must first fill out an application to visit.
  • California inmate visiting applications are available here.  It can also be obtained by requesting it from your inmate directly.  It must be signed by the inmate before it can be submitted.
  • If you are approved you will not be notified, the prison will leave it up to the inmate to tell you if you have been approved.
  • If you have been denied visitation (disapproved) you will receive a letter in the mail with the reason(s) listed.
  • If your application is disapproved because of missing, incomplete, or inaccurate information, you may just resubmit the corrected application.
  • If your application was denied for other reasons you can appeal it by writing to the Warden of the facility, the Warden then has 15 business days to respond.
  • If you are still unsatisfied with the appeal response you can escalate your appeal by mailing all the information, including a copy of the denial letter to the Director of Adult Institutions.  The address is California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Division of adult institutions, Attention: Director, Room 351-N, PO Box 942883, Sacramento, CA, 94283-0001.  A response will occur within 20 working days.
  • Each prison has visiting hours on Saturdays and Sundays, and New Years Day, July 4th, Thanksgiving day, and Christmas day.  Visiting times will vary depending on the institution.
  • You can get the visiting day and time for any institution in California by calling the 800 Visitors information hotline at 1-800-374-8474. This number will also provide emergency information relating to lockdowns, medical quarantines and other things that will affect visiting an inmate.  You can also get directions to the facility through this number.
  • Some facilities will require you make an appointment to visit, all non-contact visits and Death Row inmates require you to make an appointment to visit.
  • You can make an appointment to visit a California inmate online here.
  • In order to visit you must provide a valid photo driver's license, valid military photo ID, US passport with photo, photo ID from Mexican Consulate, or USDOJ identification for ICE law enforcement.
  • Minors must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian and bring the minor's birth certificate (or certified copy).
  • If the minor is being accompanied by someone other then a parent or legal guardian they must have the birth certificate and a notarized written consent authorization form.

Some additional information about visiting an inmate in California you should read before visiting:

  • All visitors and their cars are subject to a search.  Sometimes the facility will utilize K-9 units (dogs) to sniff out potential narcotics.
  • Everyone including minors and small children must pass through a metal detector.  If you have a medical implant or prosthetic you must bring a note from your doctor verifying the implants location, it will be verified with a metal detecting wand.  Doctors note must include docs name, address, telephone, medical license number and be issued within the last two years.
  • If you have a wheelchair, cane or other device you may be required to exchange it temporarily for a prison issued device for the duration of your visit.
  • You may not bring tobacco, or any related product such as a lighter to visitation. 

Items a visitor is allowed to bring to visitation:

  • You may bring a small clear Ziploc bag to carry certain items to visitation.
  • Up to $50 per adult, $20 per minor in singles, or dollar/quarter coins.  Change machines are available but they often run out of change.
  • Two keys, including your car key/electronic car key can come with you to your visit.
  • Your ID must also come with you to visiting.
  • A non-metallic comb or brush
  • Unopened travel size pack of tissues
  • Prescription glasses
  • Up to Ten photos no larger than 8"x10".  The photos cannot be left with the inmate, and you must take them with you when you leave.  Polaroid, sexual images, gang images or photos with hand signs/gestures tattoos will not be allowed.
  • Documents up to 10 pages in length such as tax forms, child support papers, a kids report card, drawing etc. can come with you to the facility but they must also leave with you at the end of visitation, and can be no larger than standard paper size (8.5"x11")
  • If you are with an infant or toddler you can bring a factory sealed single serving of baby formula, or two clear plastic baby bottles (these can contain pre-mixed formula, milk, juice or water) A single plastic spoon, up to six diapers, a sealed package of baby wipes, a single change of clothing, a single small blanket, a single pacifier, a clear plastic diaper bag no larger than 12"x20" (Ziploc)

Dress Code for Visitors of California Inmates

While every correctional facility in California has a dress code that can be slightly different from the rest, the following is a general set of rules that all the prisons abide by.

  • Required religious clothing such as yamakas, burkas, scarves will be searched in a private room by a member of the same sex.
  • You may not wear clothing that looks like what the inmates are wearing, that includes blue denim pants, blue chambray shirts, orange tops, orange bottoms, orange jumpsuits, red tops, or a dress that resembles the inmates clothing.
  • No clothing that resembles the custodial staff including forest green pants, tan shirts, or camouflage.
  • Underwire bra and clothing with metal buttons may not clear a metal detector, alternative items should be worn instead.
  • No clothing that exposes shoulders, back, midriff or cleavage may be worn.
  • No transparent, sheer, strapless or halter clothing is allowed.
  • Skirts and dresses must not be more than two inches above the knee.
  • Wigs, hair extensions and other hair accessories may not be worn, with the exception of medical issue and doctors note.
  • Any clothing with offensive writing/images is not allowed.
  • Excessive jewelry is prohibited.
  • Shoes must always be worn.
  • Tight clothing, such as spandex, leggings, are restricted from visitation.
  • No hats, gloves, or sunglasses may be worn.

Always remember to bring a change of clothes with you and leave them in your car, this way if the staff objects to something you are wearing you can at least change your clothing and still get the chance to visit.  If you violate any of the above rules you can be denied visiting privileges and even banned from visiting your inmate altogether.

Please share your experience with visiting an inmate in California with us.  Whether it was a good or a bad experience, we would love to hear about it.  Just leave a comment on this page, or if you have a question, or know of some other useful information you want to share with other potential visitors, feel free to post it below.