Begin Main Content Area

Visiting Rules

The Department of Corrections (DOC) understands and stresses the importance of family members and friends staying in touch with incarcerated individuals at state correctional institutions (SCI). However, because your loved one is incarcerated, there are many rules and requirements visitors must follow for the safety of the inmates, DOC staff and other visitors. All visits are governed by DOC Policy DC-ADM 812, "Inmate Visiting Privileges.” (pdf) The DOC reserves the right to update the Visit Rules information at any time. Always check with the visiting room officer if there are questions.

Visitors enter DOC institutions and the visiting areas at their own risk. DOC will NOT assume liability for any injuries or damage or loss of property as a result of a person entering a visiting area or any other area within an SCI.

For information about visits with restricted housing unit inmates, religious visits, PA Prison Society visits or attorney visits, please contact the appropriate state prison or review the DOC policy.

MEDICAL WARNING: Microwaves may be in use in visiting rooms.

General Rules

Inmates are informed of changes that may occur in visiting regulations. It is the responsibility of each inmate to inform his/her visitor(s) of these changes.

Any violation of visiting regulations may result in the suspension of visiting privileges.

Visiting rules may vary slightly from prison to prison. Rules are posted at each prison. Visitors should make sure to educate themselves about a specific prison’s local visiting rules/policies. Inmates in administrative custody or disciplinary custody have different visiting rules. They are aware of the rules and should relay them to their visitors.

Vehicles must be locked while on prison property. Windows must be rolled up/closed. All equipment must be secured in or on your vehicle (such as ladders, tool boxes).

NEVER bring any gifts or money for the inmate. This must be done through JPay. Prisons will NOT accept money to be placed on an inmate’s account.

Cell phones and/or pagers are not permitted inside the SCIs. They must be properly secured in your locked vehicle prior to entering the SCI.

Any kind of device, whether worn or hand held, that has the capability of audio and/or video/photography recording and/or cell phone capabilities is NOT permitted.  This could include, but is not limited to, eye glasses, tie tacks, lapel pins, wrist watches, pens, etc.

No purses, bags, diaper bags, etc., are permitted.

Due to space restrictions, visits may be terminated on a first in, first out basis, to make room for visitors that may be waiting.

Visiting room officers may assign specific seating locations for visitors and inmates, especially for those who are suspected of or have displayed problems with obeying procedures.

Unused visits per week may not be carried over into the following week. It’s a “use them or lose them” rule.

At most facilities, lockers are available for use. Some lockers may require a deposit ranging from 25 cents to $10. Items not permitted in the visiting room should either be left in your vehicle or placed in the locker. All vehicles and lockers are subject to search.

It is possible that an inmate may not wish to visit even though the visitor is at the prison. The DOC cannot force an inmate to conduct a visit if he/she does not wish to do so.

To ensure visitors get at least one hour with their inmate, visitors should arrive as early in the day as possible. In order to ensure a visit, visitors MUST arrive at least one hour prior to visiting room closure time.

Visitors should realize that some inmates have to walk across the prison compound to the visiting room area and then be processed for the visit – all which takes a significant amount of time. So arriving early ensures the best visiting experience.

It is suggested that visitors try to visit on weekdays rather than weekends. Weekends tend to be very busy.

Profits from the visiting room vending machines benefit each SCI’s Inmate General Welfare Fund.

Inmates shall never use/operate a vending machine. Visitors may purchase vending machine items for the inmate to consume during the visit.

Although vending machines may be available, visitors should not depend upon them being filled or in working order.

Visitors requiring medication during the visit (such as inhalers or insulin injections) must advise the visiting room officer and the lobby officer upon arrival at the prison and follow appropriate procedures. Visitors are responsible for providing their own medication(s).

Visitors with any kind of orthopedic hardware need to present a card, from the attending physician, documenting the hardware, in order to be granted a contact visit.

Visitors are responsible for supervision of and for keeping control of their minor visitors.

For prisons that allow money in visiting rooms, nothing larger than coins, $1 bills and $5 bills are permitted, with a total limit of $50. All cash must be contained in a clear plastic bag or small clear change purse. Staff will not make change.

Visiting rooms are smoke and tobacco free areas. Electronic cigarettes are NOT permitted.

There is no waiting area, so do not bring someone who cannot visit if they are intending to wait for you at the facility. Anyone who is not visiting shall be required to exit the facility grounds.

Who CANNOT visit?

• Former inmate of any correctional system
• Person currently under probation or parole supervision
• Current inmate in pre-release or SIP status
• Current or former DOC employee
• Current, active volunteer of the DOC
• Current or former contract employee
• Victim of the inmate
• Visitor who has had his/her visiting privileges suspended
• Visitor that has an active PFA against them

For an inmate to be visited by anyone who is not permitted, the inmate must initiate the request to have a prohibited visitor added to his/her visiting list, and a recommendation must come from the inmate’s unit team. The facility manager or designee may permit such a visitor depending upon the approved DOC process.

Individuals whose visiting privileges have been suspended may write to the appropriate facility manager seeking reinstatement of their visiting privileges. Reinstatement is not guaranteed.

How to receive permission to visit if you fit into these categories

For an inmate to be visited by anyone who is not permitted, the inmate must initiate the request to have a prohibited visitor added to his/her visiting list, and a recommendation must come from the inmate's unit team. The facility manager or designee may permit such a visitor depending upon the approved DOC process.

What to expect when you arrive at the SCI

Illegal drugs and/or paraphernalia, alcohol, weapons, cameras and tape/video/digital recorders are not permitted on prison grounds at any time.

Cell phones and/or pagers are not permitted inside facilities. They must be properly secured in your vehicle prior to entering the facility.

All visitor vehicles are subject to search.

Any driver/owner and passengers in the vehicle will not be permitted to visit if the driver/owner refuses a vehicle search and is subjected to visiting suspension.

You must lock your vehicle. Windows must be rolled up/closed, and all equipment must be secured in or on your vehicle (such as ladders, tool boxes).

Children and/or animals may not be left unattended in the vehicle.

Any alcohol, drugs and/or weapons found in the vehicle or on your person can result in the visit being denied and/or the Pennsylvania State Police being called to the prison.

At most prisons, if you drive a personal vehicle to the prison, you must register the vehicle information with the visiting room officer. This information is needed: year, make, model and license plate number.

Prisons have inmates who perform janitorial services or duties outside of the prison perimeter. You are not permitted to have contact or conversations with them as you are reporting to the visiting room area. Doing so could jeopardize your visiting privileges.

While in the visiting room, you may not talk with other inmates or their guests.

Identification needed to visit

All visitors, regardless of age, must have proper forms of identification in order to visit. One photo ID or two non-photo ID’s required for all visitors, including children and infants.

Adults must have ONE of the following proper forms of identification:

• Driver’s license or ID card issued by a state or outlying possession of the United States provided it contains a photograph or information such as name, date of birth, sex, height, eye color, and address
• ID card issued by a federal, state, or local government agencies or entities provided it contains a photograph or information such as name, date of birth, sex, height, eye color, and address
• School ID, with photograph
• U.S. Passport
• Certificate of U.S. Citizenship (INS Form N-560 or N-561)
• Certificate of Naturalization (INS Form N-550 or N-570)
• Alien Registration Receipt Card with photograph (INS Form I-151 or I-551)
• Temporary Resident Card (INS Form I-688)
• Any other form of identification that contains a photograph

OR

TWO of these forms of ID (one of which must contain a physical description of the person):
• Voter’s registration card
• U.S. Military card or draft record
• Vehicle Registration
• U.S. social security card issued by the Social Security Administration
• Certification of Birth Abroad issued by the Department of State (Form FS-545 or Form DS-1350)
• Original or certified copy of a birth certificate issued by a state, county, municipal authority, or outlying possession of the United State bearing an official seal
• U.S. Citizen ID Card (INS Form I-197)
• ID Card for use of Resident Citizen in the United States (INS Form I-179)
• School record or report card
• Clinic, doctor, immunization, or hospital record
• Day-care or nursery school report
• Learner’s Permit or Temporary Driver’s License
• Native American Tribal document

Any form of identification that is provided and has passed the expiration date indicated on that document will not be accepted. Photo copies of any ID will NOT be accepted.

A visitor who cannot produce acceptable identification will NOT be permitted to visit unless approved by the facility manager/designee.

A visitor who falsifies identifying information will be suspended/barred from the facility for a period of time determined by the facility manager/designee.

Anyone who appears to be under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance will not be permitted into the prison.

You must be on the inmate’s visitor’s list. DOC cannot tell you if you are on the list. It is up to the inmate to inform his/her visitor(s). If you are not on the visitor’s list, you will not be permitted to visit with the inmate.

You must be 18 or older to visit, unless you are accompanied by a parent or guardian who is also on the inmate’s visitor’s list or unless you are the legal spouse of the inmate.

You may only be on one inmate’s visitor’s list at a time.

Every visitor, regardless of their age, is subject to search.

If a visitor refuses to be searched before entering the prison, visiting privileges may be denied. If a visitor refuses to be searched while in the prison or upon leaving the prison, they may be detained until the appropriate law enforcement arrives.

Every visitor must successfully pass through a metal detector in order to be permitted into the visiting room. Women should wear bras but they cannot have underwire. Underwires will not pass successfully through the metal detector.

Facilities may use dogs to conduct passive drug screenings or special devices to detect illegal drugs. Failure to pass these screenings could result in your visit being denied.

At most facilities, but not all, lockers are available to store your personal items that are not permitted in the visiting room. At some facilities a refundable deposit may be required to use the lockers. Facilities that do not offer lockers will require items to be locked in your vehicle.

Visits cannot be split over several days. As an example: a visitor cannot come on Monday for 30 minutes and then return on Tuesday for another 30 minute visits. If an inmate or visitor terminates a visit for lunch, the visit may not be continued after lunch.

You will be required to sign in upon arrival and to sign out prior to leaving.

Minor visitors

All minors under 18 years of age must have the appropriate visitors form DC-313 or DC-313A signed by both the parent and legal guardian of the child and the inmate’s counselor or unit manager BEFORE the minor will be placed on the inmate’s list. Incarcerated parents are NOT permitted to sign these forms.

Form DC-313 must be completed if you intend for your child/minor to visit with an inmate who is NOT incarcerated for a physical or sexual offense against a minor. In this case, if approved, this visit would take place in the regular visiting room.

Form DC-313A must be completed if you intend for your child/minor to visit with an inmate who IS incarcerated for a physical or sexual offense against a minor. In this case, if approved, this will be a non-contact visit where the inmate is separated from the minor visitor by a glass partition. The facility manager/designee may grant contact visits for inmates meeting these criteria for special circumstances.

Children ages five and younger may be held by the inmate on his/her lap.

Visiting with babies

Please feed your baby/babies before visiting. If you have a baby as a part of your visiting group, you may take these items into the visiting room:
• Up to 3 UNOPENED, commercially prepared and vacuum-sealed containers of baby food per infant. All containers will be opened by the inspecting officers.
• Up to 3 clear plastic bottles of pre-mixed formula/white milk per infant
• Up to 3 diapers per infant. Diapers must be loose so they can be inspected
• Up to 3 pull-ups or training pants per infant
• A reasonable number of wipes

Some prisons allow one each of the following: blanket, change of clothing, pacifier, teething ring, bib, empty sippy cup and a baby spoon. Check with the appropriate prison for their local policy. All of these items must be placed in a clear plastic bag, which is provided in the visitor reception area. No other carrying container of any kind will be allowed.

NOTE: Some prisons do not allow baby wipes to be brought in because they are available inside the visiting room. Check with the appropriate prison for their local policy.

Child Resource Center information is available for your additional information.

Length of visits

Visits shall be no less than one hour in duration and shall occur during regularly scheduled visiting hours. Longer periods may be allowed depending upon the inmate’s custody level and available visiting room space. In the event the visiting room is at full capacity, and more visits are to be conducted, visits will be terminated on a first-come, first-out basis provided the minimum visiting time of one hour has elapsed.

Any visitor’s privileges may be limited, suspended or restricted (such as non-contact visits only or a restriction on visiting at more than one facility) if information become available suggesting that allowing the individual to visit poses a threat to the safety and security of any prison. Visits can be terminated due to violation of the visiting room rules, DOC policies, etc.

Number of visitors

The number of visitors an inmate may have at any one time may be limited depending upon available visiting room space. Each facility has designated the maximum number of visitors permitted per inmate, per visit and the maximum capacity of people, inmates and visitors permitted in the visiting area.

Items NOT permitted in the visiting room

At no time shall visitors give or try to give inmates gifts or items, other than vending machine items. Visitors are not permitted to give inmates money. Money only may be added to an inmate’s account using JPay.

Coats, jackets or other outer garments (excluding suit coats, sports jackets/blazers and/or cardigan type sweaters). There are some prisons that also have outside visiting areas, where outerwear may be permitted. Please check with the appropriate prison regarding their local policies.

Other items not permitted include:

Portable wireless devices | cameras | audio recorders | radios/iPods | cell phones | pagers | handbags | any kind of food and/or drink brought in from outside the prison vending machines | chewing gum | tobacco products | lighters | pocket knives | keys | no clothing or papers for the inmate | medications

PLEASE NOTE: any type of device, whether worn or hand held, that has the capability of audio and/or video/photography recording and/or cell phone capabilities is NOT permitted. This could include, but not be limited to, eye glasses, tie tacks, lapel pins, wrist watches, pens, etc.

Visitors requiring medication during the visit (such as inhalers or insulin injections) must advise the visiting room officer upon arrival at the prison and follow appropriate procedures. Visitors are responsible for providing their own medication(s).

Persons caught introducing contraband into the visiting room will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and will be permanently banned from visiting ALL state prisons.

Dress Code: These items are NOT permitted

Visitors are expected to dress appropriately and avoid clothing styles that are revealing or provocative. Women should wear bras but they cannot have underwire. Underwires will not pass successfully through the metal detector.

• Coats, jackets or other outer garments (excludes suit coats, sports jackets/blazers and/or cardigan type sweaters)
• See-through clothing
• Clothing that exposes private body parts
• Shorts or mini-skirts shorter than 4 inches above the middle of the kneecap
• Sleeveless shirts or tank tops
• Spaghetti strings or shirts that expose the shoulder or midriff
• Halter tops
• Spandex or leggings
• Pajamas worn as outer garments
• Hoods of any kind
• Bobby pins, safety pins, decorative pins, hair accessories and/or jewelry items that do not successfully clear the metal detector
• Bathing suits
• Clothing that references obscene language, drugs, sex or violence
• Bare feet
• Boxer shorts
• Clothing with rips, tears or revealing holes that are in areas of the body that may reveal breasts, nipples, buttocks, genital area
• Pajamas or lingerie
• Knapsacks
• Book bags or back packs
• Wallets

Face veils or obstructive clothing

Face veils or other articles of clothing that obstruct the view of an individual’s face required by a female visitor’s religious beliefs are permitted to be worn inside the facility. Positive identification is required for all visitors. This procedures will be followed for processing a visitor wearing a face veil or other article of clothing that obstructs the view of an individual’s face when entering and exiting a facility:

1. A female DOC staff member will identify the visitor. When possible, a female corrections officer will be used. When a female corrections officer is not available, female staff from other departments will be used to process a female visitor and confirm her identity when leaving.

2. The removal of the face veil or other article of clothing will be done in a location that gives the visitor privacy to avoid being seen by male individuals.

3. All face veils or other articles of clothing that obstruct the view of an individual’s face must be moved or removed to allow the DOC staff member an unobstructed view of the visitor’s face. After the DOC staff member has viewed the visitor’s face, the visitor will be instructed to place the face veil or other article of clothing back to its original position.

4. Before leaving the facility, the face veil must again be opened to confirm the identity of the visitor.

Conduct in the visiting room

Inmates and/or visitors who become disruptive, use loud, abusive or obscene language or who engage in sexual behavior will have their visit terminated and may be placed on visiting privilege restriction. Only at the time of arrival and departure, may the visitor and inmate exchange a brief kiss and embrace. There shall be NO excessive kissing, petting, snuggling and/or grooming.

Individuals with children are responsible for maintaining control of their children. There will be no sitting on laps, except for small children (see the section on minor visitors for details about inmates holding children on their laps). Sitting or lying on the grass in an outdoor visiting area is prohibited. Visitors and inmates are not permitted to sit on tables or to straddle seating or benches.

Cash/Vending Machines

All prisons have vending machines in the visiting rooms. Some prisons allow coins and cash, while others require the purchase of tokens to be used in the machines. Where coins and cash are permitted, nothing larger than coins or $1 and $5 bills are permitted. The limit total is $50. All cash must be contained in a clear, plastic bag or small, clear change purse. DOC staff will NOT make change.

Operating vending machines
Only visitors may use/operate vending machines. All food/drink items purchased from the vending machines must be consumed and disposed of in the visiting room.

Photo tickets and food vending cards MUST be purchased in the lobby area BEFORE the visit. Unused photo tickets and any balance remaining on the food vending card may be used during future visits.

Vending cards are prison specific. If your loved one moves to another prison, you need to work with the sending prison to obtain information about how you can get a refund of any remaining funds on that card. At the new prison, you will have to begin using the vending card that is specific to that prison for purchases in that facility.

Taking pictures during your visit

Many facilities allow visitors to purchase tokens or tickets to get pictures taken during visits. Some facilities have a photo machine/booth that accepts dollars and coins (no gold dollars). Please check with the appropriate facility to see what their local policy is with respect to purchasing photos while in the visiting room.

Special pre-arranged visits for long-distance travelers

Special visits can be pre-arranged for persons who are not on an approved visitor’s list or who have traveled a substantial distance and for a family visit for a seriously ill or injured inmate. Special visits must be arranged by the inmate and approved by the facility manager/designee.

Service dogs

Individuals with a disability are permitted to bring their service dogs into the visiting room.

INMATE-RELATED INFORMATION