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The Federal Bureau of Prisons' Drug Interdiction Activities

Report Number I-2003-002
January 2003



BOP Program Statement 5267.06, Visiting Regulations, requires wardens to establish a visiting schedule for their institution. Visiting schedules among institutions may vary depending on factors such as the security level of the institution, the size of the inmate population, the capacity of an institution's visiting room, and the number of visitors. For example, most institutions we visited scheduled visiting days during some weekdays and on weekends, while some institutions scheduled visits seven days a week, day and evening hours. All inmates receive contact visits, unless an inmate has been charged with or found guilty of a prohibited act related to visiting procedures or otherwise has had visits restricted by the Disciplinary Hearing Officer.91 If the visiting room is not overcrowded, an inmate may visit the entire day, approximately six hours, or until visiting hours are over. If a large number of visitors are waiting, inmates may be asked to end their visits to give other inmates the opportunity to visit. At the institutions we visited, inmates operated on a point system where each inmate receives 30 visiting points per month to be used toward visits. Each point is equal to one hour of visiting. On weekends or holidays, each hour is worth two points.

Each inmate has a list of approved visitors, which includes immediate family members and other relatives (numbers are unrestricted), and up to ten friends and associates, but the warden may make an exception to this number.92 The inmate must submit a list of proposed visitors to the designated BOP staff member who will conduct a background check on all visitors who are not immediate family. Generally, the investigation consists of a NCIC criminal background check on all non-family members. Once visitors are approved, the names are added to an automated list. Correctional officers who process visitors into the institution and visiting room use the automated list to verify the visitor's identity. For each approved visitor, the inmate is provided with a copy of visiting guidelines, which the inmate must send to each visitor.

There are restrictions on the items that visitors are permitted to bring into the institution. The visiting guidelines include notification to the visitor that, "a penalty of imprisonment for not more than 20 years, a fine, or both, can be imposed for providing or attempting to provide any item(s) to an inmate without the knowledge and consent of the warden." Warnings against attempts to smuggle contraband are also posted in the lobby area and visitors must sign a form that they understand the conditions of their visit. Some institutions have posted news articles and pictures in plain view of incoming visitors depicting other visitors' arrests and convictions for smuggling drugs. Although visitors are not searched, a correctional officer at the front lobby visually checks the personal property of visitors. All visitors must walk through a metal detector. As part of a pilot project, some institutions use ion spectrometry technology that can detect trace amounts of drugs. At these institutions, visitors are randomly screened by this device as part of the visitor in-processing procedures.

On visiting days, an institution has several officers assigned to perform visiting functions. In general, officers are assigned to:

Video cameras inside the visiting rooms mounted on the walls or ceilings enhance the observation of visits. Video monitoring from these cameras is conducted by the correctional officers assigned to the visiting room or conducted remotely by officers located in other areas of the institution such as in the Control Center or the Intelligence office. Some visiting rooms have two-way glass, which enables officers to covertly observe visiting room activities.

All institutions make available a variety of food items that can be purchased by the inmates' visitors from several vending machines located inside the visiting rooms. Inmates are not permitted to handle any cash inside the institution. Only the inmates' visitors are permitted to handle and place money in the vending machines, although visitors can purchase food items for the inmate and themselves.

The visiting room area has separate bathrooms for visitors and inmates. Visitors use their bathrooms unescorted. Inmates must be escorted by a correctional officer and personally observed while using the facilities.

Once the visit is concluded, each inmate is escorted to a processing area and strip searched to ensure no contraband is introduced into the institution.


  1. ADX Florence and USP Marion do not allow contact visits.

  2. Immediate family members include: mother, father, step-parents, foster parents, bothers, sisters, spouse, and children. Other relatives include: grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, and in-laws.