How to Visit an Inmate in a California State Prison

Visiting an inmate can be frustrating due to the numerous rules that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has enacted. There are two basic types of visits; contact visits and non-contact visits. Non-contact visits take place in a partitioned area and contact is not allowed. Any violations of rules can result in termination of visiting privileges.

Know the rules. Some prohibitions are obvious, such as bans on weapons, escape, alcohol and drugs. There are strict bans on giving or receiving written documents and ex-felons must have the permission of the warden of the appropriate institution. Each person who wishes to visit must complete appropriate forms and submit a completed fingerprint card for clearance. An inmate’s attorney must contact the Litigation Coordinator or Visiting Room personnel in order to arrange an appointment to interview her client.

Talk to the inmate who you are going to visit and have him request that your name be placed on the approved visitor list. The inmate must then send you a Visitor’s Questionnaire (CDCR Form 106). Complete the fingerprint card that is provided by the CDCR and submit it directly to the appropriate agency address. Some agencies charge a fee to assist in taking your fingerprints.

Complete CDCR Form 106 and mail it to the institution. Keep a copy for your records. Approved visitors must be notified by the inmate. You have the right to appeal or to submit additional information to receive further reconsideration.

Dress appropriately and comply with the regulations. Generally, you are not allowed to wear blue denims, sexually revealing clothing or items depicting gang affiliation. Bring identification consisting of one of the following: State-issued driver’s license or state identification card, passport, armed forces identification card or U.S. Justice Department Immigration Card. All identification must have a photo and none can be laminated. Prepare for your visit by obtaining a list of prohibited items and other institutional rules.

Bring change and one dollar bills up to the maximum amount per person that must be placed in a small see-through coin purse with no handles. You will be able to purchase items from vending machines.

Confirm that on the day and time you intend to visit that visiting will be allowed. If the institution is on lockdown, you will not be able to visit an inmate.