Physical contact with family members is crucial for the emotional health of inmates who have limited interaction in their correctional facilities.
Studies have shown the link between visitations and the successful reintegration of former prisoners into the community. Family visits can also reduce the misconduct and recidivism among prisoners upon release.
Recidivism refers to repeating the same criminal offense or returning to criminal behavior.
Do you have a loved one incarcerated at a correctional facility in California? LookUpInmate.org has information on 580 facilities across California, including Corcoran, Los Angeles, and Sacramento.
For more details on each correctional facility’s visiting hours and phone numbers, you can visit our website, view jails by state, and look for facilities in California (CA).
You may be wondering what specific protocols you need to follow so you can schedule a visit to these facilities soon. This article will take you through the visitation procedures set by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).
This guide will also show the steps to booking a visit through the CDCR website to make the most of your visiting time with your loved one.
Are California Prisons Open for Visitors?
The CDCR grants family visits to inmates who are not on death row, not serving time for sex offense convictions, not under disciplinary restrictions, or in the reception centers process for newly admitted prisoners.
Inmates are allowed to have one in-person visit a day, depending on the facility’s availability and safety and health concerns.
In-person visits can last for at least two hours, depending on the demand for visits and safety considerations.
Prisons will admit up to two minors aged three years and older per visit. Incarcerated people and their adult and child visitors must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to be granted visitation rights.
Prisoners can avoid possible COVID-19 infections by organizing in-person contact visits in large rooms.
However, the CDCR only allows non-contact visits with glass partitions for newly admitted inmates or those transferring between prisons and segregated or high-risk inmates.
CDCR assigns segregated prisoners to administrative segregation, adjustment centers, behavior management units, and security housing units.
How to Schedule a Visit
All visits to any California correctional facility need pre-approval and are by appointment only.
You must fill out the Visitor Questionnaire (CDCR Form 106), which the inmate should send you. The document should have the prisoner’s signature to confirm that they added you to their visiting list.
The form will also require loved ones to list all of the inmate’s criminal convictions and arrests, which the CDCR will countercheck.
After answering all the questions, you should mail the completed questionnaire to the visiting sergeant of your loved one’s facility. Be sure to mail the form to the address for prison staff and not the address for prisoners.
Once the CDCR approves your application, the prison’s computer system will include you in its list. The facility notifies the inmate about the approval and they should inform their loved ones.
You will only get a letter directly from the prison if it rejects your application. But you and your loved one in prison can re-apply.
Sometimes, the denial may be due to incomplete answers to the questionnaire or a lack of additional information, which you can address and rectify.
Visits to California state prisons also require pre-approval. Inmates and their loved ones must complete a visitor information form that goes to the Bureau of Federal Prisons (BOP).
Once your loved one gets approval from their facility, they should notify you of the visiting schedule for their state prison.
How to Schedule a Visit Using Visitation Scheduling Application (VSA)
Visitor processing varies from one institution to another. CDCR’s Facility Visiting Status web page lists what type of visits your loved one’s facility allows. You can check the details found under the column “Visiting Status” for verification.
However, visitors typically need to use the Visitation Scheduling Application (VSA), which involves creating an account on CDCR’s website.
Staggered Start Times for Scheduling Visits
CDCR has grouped the state’s correctional facilities into the northern, central, and southern regions. Institutions in each region have their own specific hours for accepting visitation appointments.
Approved visitors of California inmates should check the VSA webpage of CDCR to determine their respective request period.
CDCR will accept requests placed eight days before the visit at the earliest and five days before the visit at the latest.
Claiming Your Account Using Desktop Computer
The inmate’s friends and family should create an account on CDCR’s webpage where they can register on the Global Tel Link (GTL) Visit Me app. The app will ask for your first and last name, birthdate, email address, and state before giving you your visitor ID.
You can click “Print Summary” or take a screenshot to record your ID number.
Expect to get an email from the CDCR with your temporary password once you finish creating an account and get your visitor ID.
The email will include a clickable link to the Visit Me site or the VSA. You must sign in with your temporary password before creating a new one.
After resetting your password, you can view the visitor website’s home page, which will show the name of your loved one in prison and any upcoming visits.
Claiming Your Account Using Smartphone or Tablet
The steps for registering on the visitor website via your tablet or mobile device are the same as creating an account using your desktop or laptop. You need to click the link on the email you received from CDCR to register with the visitor app.
The only difference is after you set a new password for your account using a smartphone, you need to click the “Accept policies and submit” button. You will find this button when the “Review and Accept Policies” screen appears.
Once you click the button, a new window will appear saying “Registration Successful,” from which you can click the “New Visit” button to schedule your visitation.
Managing Your Account Using Desktop Computer
You can change or update your details (email address, password, visitor groups) on the website by going to the My Account Menu.
Managing Your Account Using Smartphone or Tablet
Suppose you are accessing the visitor website using your mobile phone. In that case, you can change your password, email, and other details by tapping the “Account Settings” button on the main menu.
Scheduling Future Visits Using A Desktop Computer
On the website’s home page, go to the right side containing the box titled “My Inmates.”
Click the “Visit” link next to the name of the inmate you will visit. Then choose “Visitor” or “Multiple Visitors.” The other visitors should have been pre-approved to visit.
You can go to Manage Visitor Groups to send a friend request so you and another visitor can visit your loved one in prison together.
When the calendar appears, select a date and then choose “No Preference” for “Visitation Location” and “Time of Day.” This choice lets the system display all the available visit options for in-person and video visits on that date.
When the available visiting hours appear, tap on your preferred time slot and view the visit information. The data will include the type of visit, status, date, time, location, inmate name, visitor name or relationship, and visitation policies.
Scheduling Future Visits Using A Smartphone or Tablet
For scheduling a visit using your mobile phone, click the “Schedule a New Visit” button to set a visitation appointment after logging on to the website.
If you have set an appointment, click the “Upcoming Visits” button to check the status of your request.
When you schedule a new visit, the list of approved visitors will show on the screen.
Choose your name from the “Available” column and click the green arrow to move it to the “Attending” column. From there, you can either click the “Confirm Visitors” button.
When the “Select Inmate” window shows up, click on your loved one’s name before tapping on the “Confirm Inmate” button. Then pick the right visitor relationship from the drop-down list when the “Inmate Relations” window appears.
Just like in the desktop process, tap on “No Preference for Visitation Center” from the “Visitation Center” window before clicking the “Confirm Location” button.
By selecting this option, the system will show the calendar and all the available visitation dates for the month. After you click on your desired date, a new window will appear with all the available time slots for the day.
Tap on your preferred time before clicking the “Confirm Time” button.
The “Reserve Your Visit” window will show up next. You can edit your visitation details by clicking the “Edit Visit” button. Otherwise, tap on the “Agree & Reserve” button.
Finally, the system takes you to the “Visit Summary” screen, where you can view your visitor confirmation ID.
View Upcoming Visits On A Smartphone or Tablet
After booking a visit on your phone or tablet, you can review the details of that upcoming visit by tapping on the “Upcoming Visits” button from the main menu.
Edit a Confirmed Visit Using A Smartphone or Tablet
The “Upcoming Visits” window also contains edit and cancel buttons that you can click to make any changes to your confirmed visit. Select the edit button if you want to remove or add visitors.
If you want to change the visitation date, click the cancel button and the “New Visit” button to set a new appointment.
Canceling a Visit Using A Desktop Computer
To cancel a visit using a desktop computer, go to the visitor website’s homepage box that shows your confirmed appointment.
Then, click the small red button with an “X” mark on the right side of that box to permanently cancel your visit.
After you click “Yes” to the pop-up window asking you to confirm the cancellation, the canceled status will also display on the home page.
Canceling a Visit Using A Smartphone or Tablet
When canceling a visit using your tablet or smartphone, click the “Upcoming Visits” button from the main menu.
When the “Upcoming Visits” screen appears, tap the box containing the details of the visit you wish to cancel before clicking the “Cancel” button.
Then reconfirm your decision to cancel the visit by tapping the “Cancel Visit” button when the “Cancel this Visit?” screen appears.
How do I schedule a video visit to an inmate in California?
You can also opt to meet your incarcerated loved one virtually by using Webex.com, which offers encrypted communication.
Friends and family should also register with the VSA to schedule a video visit.
Individuals with visitor approval and internet-ready devices equipped with cameras can book a video visit. The video call will last for an hour.
How to Use WebEx to Join a Video Visit
For video visits, CDCR’s email reply to your visitor application will include a “Join Meeting” button for approved visits. The password you need to enter the virtual room is also included in the email.
Webex will automatically download the app on your Windows or Mac PC when you click the button or meeting link. On your phone, you may get a prompt to install the app so you can make the video visit.
VSA Technical Assistance
If you need help using the VSA, do not contact GTL (now ViaPath Technologies), which is CDCR’s phone service.
Instead, refer to the CDCR’s visiting staff phone list and place a phone call with the visiting sergeant or lieutenant of your loved one’s facility.
Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15 § 3177 – Family Visiting (Overnight)
Eligible inmates can ask the approval of their facility’s family visiting coordinator to grant them visits from their immediate family members.
Family members include:
- Legal spouses
- Registered domestic partners
- Individuals with a verified foster relationship with the inmate
Minors can join family visits as long as an approved adult visitor accompanies them.
The visiting coordinator will prepare the documents that the inmate and approved family visitors need to fill out. Once all the documents are in order, this prison official will also arrange the meals and other details related to the visit.
The inmates can spend 30 to 40 hours with their loved ones in private, apartment-type units within the prison compound.
However, the inmate and their visitors must shoulder the meal cost, but the accommodations are free.
Family visits are a privilege not granted to prisoners convicted of any sex offense or a violent offense involving a minor or family member. However, a committee may study the request if the inmate consistently shows good behavior.
Good behavior includes the inmate not breaking any serious prison rules in the past 10 years and joining self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and anger management programs.
CDCR grants the same privilege to prisoners who were minors at the time of conviction, provided they have a five-year track record of positive behavior.
Facility Visiting Status
You should refer to CDCR’s facility visiting status webpage to determine what time your loved one’s institution is open to accept visitor bookings.
Due to COVID-19 measures, some institutions will indicate an “outbreak phase,” which means it is closed to visitors.
However, California and Colorado reopened their prisons on a limited basis just one month apart—April and May 2021, respectively—as health restrictions eased in these states.
- The Effects of Prison Visits From Family Members on Prisoners’ Well-Being, Prison Rule Breaking, and Recidivism: A Review of Research Since 1991 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/281517793_The_Effects_of_Prison_Visits_From_Family_Members_on_Prisoners’_Well-Being_Prison_Rule_Breaking_and_Recidivism_A_Review_of_Research_Since_1991
- Research roundup: The positive impacts of family contact for incarcerated people and their families
- Types of Visits
- Reception Center and Camps (Males)
- In‑Person Visiting Frequently Asked Questions
- How to Schedule a Visit Using Visitation Scheduling Application (VSA)
- How to Get Approved to Visit an Incarcerated Person
- General Visiting Information
- Facility Visiting Status
- Video Visiting Frequently Asked Questions
- Join a Webex Meeting
- Tablets and Telephone Calls
- Visiting Staff Phone List
- Identification Required for Visiting
- Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15 § 3177
- How Prisons in Each State Are Restricting Visits Due to Coronavirus