What You Should Know About Prison Visitation

  1. How do I find someone in jail?

    New York City Jails - If a judge orders a person to be held, the prisoner is transferred to a jail operated by the New York City Department of Correction. The Department operates a 24 hour per day automated telephone system that you can call to learn where someone is located within the City’s jails: 718-546-1500.

    The telephone system is available in both English and Spanish. It is easier to locate a person if you have his or her "book and case" number (City Correction ID number) or NYSID number (the "rap sheet" number or NY State ID number). The system also provides information on how to post bail, how to deposit money in a prisoner’s personal jail account and how to retrieve property of a person who has been arrested. If you need to speak to a person, you need to call between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.

    You can also use the New York City Department of Correction Inmate Look-up Service on the internet to check a prisoner’s status.

    New York State Prisons - People who are sentenced to a term longer than one year are transferred upstate to prisons operated by the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS). DOCCS operates an inmate lookup on the internet that provides the location of every prisoner in the NY State prisons. You can locate a prisoner by name, but the system is more accurate and quicker if you have the Department Identification Number (DIN) e.g., 01-A-0000, or date of birth.

    You can also call DOCCS during normal business hours at 518-457-5000 to ask for a prisoner’s location. You need the person's name and date of birth. Again, it is easier to get this information if you provide the DIN.

  2. When can I visit a prisoner in a City jail?

    The City jail visit schedule changes every month depending on the first letter of the last name of the prisoner you are visiting (some days are A-L, others M-Z). Every Friday is A-Z. There are no visits on Mondays and Tuesdays. The calendar is accessible on the DOC website, or, you may call 718-546-1500.

    On Wednesday and Thursday, registration for all facilities on Rikers Island as well as the Brooklyn Detention Complex, Manhattan Detention Complex and the Vernon C. Bain Center in the Bronx on Wednesdays and Thursdays is from 1:00 pm to 8:00 pm. Visits are permitted from 1:00 pm to 9:00 pm, but you must register by 8:00 pm.

    On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, registration for the above facilities is from 7:00 am to 2:00 pm. Visits will begin no earlier than 8:00 am and end at 4:00 pm, but you must register by 2:00 pm.

  3. How Many People Can Visit?

    Generally, prisoners are permitted to see up to three (3) visitors at the same time. However, the maximum number can vary depending on space and other conditions in each jail, such as space and the number of visitors at any given time. Detainees are usually allowed up to three 60-minute visits during a week, each on separate days. Sentenced prisoners may receive two 60-minute visits during a week, each on separate days. There is a visitation schedule of dates and hours that is made known to the prisoners. Visits must occur at certain times on specified days. The schedule is given to prisoners, but friends and family can also obtain this information at the Department of Correction website.

    Children under 16 years must be accompanied by an adult 18 years or older. The adult must have proper identification. A person 16 or 17 years old, with proper identification, may visit without an adult but may not act as an adult escort of a child under 16 unless both the visitor and the prisoner are the child’s parents.

  4. What Forms of ID are Required?

    Every adult visitor and unaccompanied minor aged 16 and 17 must have one form of valid identification containing a clear photograph and signature. A valid identification card must be unexpired. Examples of valid identification documents include:

    • Driver’s license (including out of state licenses)
    • DMV Non-driver license
    • Resident alien or permanent resident card issues by the U.S. Department of Justice
    • Passport (from any country)
    • School identification card
    • Employment identification card
    • NYS benefits identification card (Medicaid/food stamp photo ID)
    • U.S. Armed Services identification card
    • Consulate-issued or diplomatic identification

    Other forms of identification containing the visitor’s photograph and signature may be judged acceptable at the discretion of the Department of Correction officers.

  5. Are there any prohibited items?

    None of the following items may be brought into any New York City jail, the Rikers Island Visit Control Building or the Hospital Prison Wards: Guns, other weapons, illegal drugs, syringes, sharp objects, tools, metal or glass objects, padlocks, tobacco products; tape or other adhesives, matches or lighters, electronic devices including cellular telephones, liquids and beverages except two clear plastic bottles with non-alcoholic beverages for babies accompanying visitors, gels, metal hairclips and hairpins, non-prescription medication, non-prescription sunglasses, no more than a total of three books, newspapers and/or magazines (except when included in an inmate package), photographs, chewing gum, visitors may bring prescription medication in its original container to the facility which, except for life-saving prescription medication, must be stored in a facility locker and may not be brought to the facility visit floor.

  6. How do I visit a New York State prison?

    Visiting days and hours vary by facility, but generally they begin at 7:30 am and end at 3:00 pm. Some include evening hours. Many visiting rooms become very crowded and often visitors are told they must leave because there are others waiting to get in. Contact the facility prior to your initial visit to determine the visiting policy.

    The number of visitors permitted at any one time also varies from prison to prison. Sometimes special arrangements for extra visitors can be made through the Superintendent’s Office, with several weeks or a month’s notice. You can call the facility to find out about special arrangements. Visitors must be pre-approved and are placed on the prisoner’s "approved visitor list." There is an exception to this rule for first time visitors with proper identification. Children of prisoners will be allowed to visit without written permission. Minors must be accompanied by an adult and must also have written permission from a parent or guardian if the accompanying adult is not a parent or guardian. Proof of identity is required. All persons entering a correctional facility are subject to search.

    Some individuals can only visit with special permission from the Superintendent: currently under Parole or Probation supervision, employees of DOCCS, volunteers for DOCCS, person with pending or past criminal proceedings may be denied visits pending approval by the Superintendent. If any of these conditions applies to you, permission should be sought by writing to the Superintendent well in advance. NOTE: In addition to the Superintendent’s approval, Probationers and Parolees also need written approval from their Probation or Parole Officer.

    For detailed information about state prison visits, identification required, number and age of visitors, prohibited items, permitted items and more, visit the DOCCS website Family Guide

  7. How can I travel to a State prison?

    DOCCS provides free bus services for family members. This service provides transportation from New York City, Albany, Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo to various correctional facilities throughout the state. An inmate will be notified during facility orientation whether or not the program is offered at that particular facility. The prisoner must apply for family members to use this service by filling out a "Family Visitor Program Application" which is available from either the Chaplain or the Guidance office. The application takes 3 to12 months to process. Information about the service can be obtained from the DOC Family Services Program 212-961-4052.

    In addition to the free service, a number of organizations operate buses for a fee:

    • Prison Gap 718-328-0291
    • Flamboyant 718-696-8147
    • B.U.V.S . 917-447-2310 (English); 646-234-4621 (Spanish).

    More information about family visitation at prisons can be obtained by contacting the Osborne Association Family Resource Center at 718-7707-2600 or visiting their website.

(March 8, 2011)