Yes. Prisoners don’t have a legal right to visitation, and the right can be revoked at any time.
What types of visitation do prisons have to offer?
Prisons do not have to offer any specific type of visitation. Most federal prisons offer in-person visits. Some also offer video conferencing. But not all prisons have contact visitation.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bureau of Prisons stopped all in-person visits. Because you don’t have a legal right to these visits, the BOP did not violate any laws by doing so. The BOP restarted non-contact visits in late Nov. 2020.
Advocates and officials agree that in-person visits help incarcerated people cope with prison. Visitations help keep them healthier and prisons safer. Studies show that there are fewer problems between incarcerated people and staff when you can see loved ones. That’s why, at most facilities, you can have at least four hours of visitation each month.
Can your visitation rights be revoked?
Yes. Prisons can revoke your visitation rights. And they don’t have to give you a reason if they do so. This means that they can take your visitation away at any time and for any reason. They don’t have to tell you why, either.
But the Supreme Court has ruled that your right to due process applies if prison officials revoke your visitation privileges as a punishment. This means they must afford you some sort of hearing process. But the process is often brief, and it can be hard to appeal.
If prison staff cancels visitation for all people, you may not have a right to a hearing. This is because it is not considered punishment when the entire prison stops visitation. You also aren’t guaranteed a hearing if staff deny entry to someone who is trying to visit you.
Your due process rights only require a hearing when staff revoke your visitation as punishment.
What are some of the reasons that prison officials might revoke your visitation rights?
Many things can affect visitation rights. Prisons often close to all visitors following violence inside the prison. A fight in any part of the prison may cause a total lockdown. During a lockdown, outsiders cannot come in the prison. People in prison also can’t move to safe areas for visitation.
Prisons may also stop visitation for technical or mechanical problems. Flooding can interrupt visitation when incarcerated people have to move to temporary holding areas. Staff may deny visitation if incarcerated people flood an area on purpose.
You also need to know that visitors have strict rules they must follow to come and see you. Your visitation may be revoked if your loved ones are not careful. They should check the schedule and rules for your facility before coming.
For all federal prisons, visitors must be pre-approved and added to your visitor list. They must follow dress codes and contact rules as well. Juveniles may have more visitation privileges than adults in some prisons.
Prisons can revoke your visitation rights. They don’t have to give you a reason. But you do have the right to due process that requires a hearing when officials revoke your visitation rights as punishment. Prisons can also close to all visitors for lots of reasons. When this happens, you likely won’t have the right to a hearing.