Can a Convicted Felon Visit Someone in Prison?

By Jen Gehring - Updated June 20, 2017
Prison visit

Each correctional facility sets its own visitation policies when deciding who can visit someone incarcerated in prison. Facilities review visitation applications from felons on a case by case basis and must balance the safety of the facility with the best interest of the inmate. When determining whether to grant or deny a visitation request from a convicted felon, correctional facilities consider a variety of factors.

Criminal History of Visitor

One factor a correctional facility will examine when reviewing a visitation request is the applicant’s entire criminal history, including felony convictions. Requests from felons who committed less serious or nonviolent offenses are more likely to be approved. Applications from felons convicted of serious or violent offenses, or applicants with lengthy criminal histories, are scrutinized more closely and may be denied visitation rights.

Time Since Conviction

Correctional facilities usually consider how much time has passed since the applicant was convicted. The more time that has passed, the more likely the visitation request will be approved. Felons recently convicted of a crime or those with charges pending are more likely to be denied visitation. Facilities may also institute policies with a specific time requirement before convicted felons can apply for visitation. The State of Washington Department of Corrections requires convicted felons to wait two years from the time their sentences have ended before applying to visit someone in prison.

Relationship to Inmate

When the person applying for visitation is a convicted felon, the relationship between the applicant and the inmate is taken into consideration when determining whether to permit a visit. If the convicted felon is a member of the inmate’s immediate family, such as a parent or a sibling, correctional facilities are more likely to grant visitation. Even if an institution has a policy barring all convicted felons from visiting for a certain period of time after their offense, the facility may grant exemptions allowing immediate family members to visit sooner.

Place of Incarceration

Some correctional facilities place additional restrictions on felons who were previously incarcerated at the facility they want to visit. Felons recently released from the same facility are more likely to be denied visitation. When reviewing these applications, officials look at the reason for the visit, the relationship between the inmate and the visitor, how much time has passed since the visitor was housed at the facility, and whether the visitor’s presence will be disruptive to the facility.

Felons on Probation

Many convicted felons have conditions placed on their release barring them from associating with other felons. Most correctional facilities require an offender to submit written permission from his probation or parole officer when reviewing a visitation application. Some state correctional systems, such as Florida, require an applicant with a prior conviction to be off community control, or probation, for a year before applying to visit an inmate.

About the Author

Jen Gehring is a political consultant and college law professor. She holds a J.D. from American University and a Bachelor of Arts in history from the University of Cincinnati. She began working as a professional writer in 2010.

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