Watch For Prison Visiting Rules
Visiting in any federal prison requires discipline. That lesson sometimes eludes newer prisoners.
The rules in every prison where I’ve been confined for the past 21-plus years specifically stated that prisoners were allowed to hug and kiss their visitors briefly at the beginning of each visit and again at the end of each visit. Most lower-security prisons allowed prisoners to hold the hands of their adult visitors during the visit; in medium-security and high-security prisons the rules were stricter and did not allow hand holding or any physical contact once the visitors sat. Guards were sometimes more tolerant of prisoners who wanted to hold their small children during a visit.
In a few articles such as Visiting at FPC Florence, Lompoc Visiting, and Better Visits with Mom, I’ve described my experiences with visiting in several prisons. Regardless of which prison in which I’ve been confined, prisoners would test the boundaries. That was understandable to me, as I know what it was like to long for the loving touch of my wife. Yet I also knew the severe consequences of violating prison visiting room rules.
Obviously, the guards enforced the rules much more stringently in higher-security prisons. In those types of facilities, surveillance cameras recorded every action. Guards stationed in off-site locations monitored the prisoners, and disciplined those who were caught trying to kiss or tough their visitors during the visit. Sanctions frequently included loss of visiting and telephone privileges for months or years.
In minimum-security camps, the officers were less obtrusive. Some officers were permissive in allowing prisoners to embrace their wives a few times during the visit, or even hold their arms around them on occasion. Other officers were by-the-book, but camps were certainly more relaxed than higher-security prisons.
Those who recently transferred to minimum-security camps, however, sometimes misunderstood the relaxed atmosphere. They misperceived the friendliness of staff and openness of the facility as an invitation or free pass to grope, fondle, or relax their inhibitions in expressing affection for their wives. If they were caught, however, they would deeply regret their indiscretion.
I’ve known several prisoners who have been cited with violating the rules of visiting rooms. Generally, for those in minimum-security camps, sanction for violating physical contact rules include transfer to higher-security prisons across state lines, a period of time in segregation, loss of visiting, telephone, and commissary privileges.
Certainly, I understand the temptation to hold or kiss my wife longer. Yet I know the pain we both would feel if guards sanctioned me with a loss of contact. My wife is protective of our visiting privileges. She loathes the prison system that keeps me from her, but she is determined to follow all rules to the letter in order to assure that we always have access to each other.
I advise new prisoners to understand all the rules and practices of their institutions. They may choose how they want to adjust, yet they should also know that their loved ones pay consequences, too, when guards impose disciplinary sanctions.