Your visit to the prison
If you want to visit your parents in prison
...here’s some important information for you:
(by the way: the authorities in Germany call prison the ‘JVA’, which stands for ‘Justizvollzugsanstalt’)
If you want to visit your Mum or Dad in prison on your own, you need to be at least 14 years old. In some federal states, the age limit’s even 16. If you’re younger, you’ll need an adult to go with you.
Since the rules are different in each federal state and sometimes from one prison to the next, there are a few things you need to do before visiting:
- Check the visiting times (often daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and any other rules there might be, e. g., by checking the website of the prison where your Mum or Dad is. Alternatively, you can just call the prison.
- Request authorization from the prison.
- Make an appointment.
- Make sure every visitor carries valid identification.
What can you take with you when you visit?
Not very much, unfortunately. The best thing you can do is check the prison’s website to see what you’re allowed to take with you. It varies from one prison to the next. Some let you take photos and pictures, some don’t.
Some things you definitely CAN’T take with you are your mobile phone and MP3 player (which you’ll have to place in a locker when you get there), food and drinks from outside the prison, or presents and animals.
When you go to your appointment
You’ll need to have strong nerves. You’ll have to wait your turn. Then you’ll have to go through a security check. You’ll have to put bags, and sometimes even your coat, in a box or a locker. You can’t take in any metal objects or things that could be used to hide stuff in.
You have to go through a security check before entering the visitor area, a bit like at the airport. In some prisons, an officer might scan or even frisk you (girls can only be checked by another female). These are totally normal checks in prison even if they can make visitors feel uncomfortable.
…finally in the visiting room
There are almost always other visitors in the visiting room. The visiting room is monitored by one or more judicial officers. Often there are also cameras. You will therefore not be alone with your father or mother. This means that it is a completely different atmosphere than if you were alone with them or at home.
Unfortunately, a prison visit does not last long, often only an hour. Your mother or father may have a visit only once a month. However, more frequent visits are often possible, for example once a week. If your mother or father is visited by more than one person, the total visit time is divided between them. Therefore, the individual visits may be shorter than one hour. Again, this varies by state and prison. Ask to find out.
You may not be feeling down after the visit and want to talk to someone who can understand your situation.
Keeping in touch with your parent
Unfortunately, it’s not always so easy because you’re not allowed to use the Internet or mobile phones at all in prison. So, you can’t send an email or text message like you would to your friends. It’s just the way things are because prison staff need to be able to monitor everybody the inmates have contact with.
Making a phone call…
It’s possible at a lot of prisons. But only from the inside to the outside! So, you can’t call your Mum or Dad in prison. They’ll need to call you. Most prisons have telephones that you need a phone card for, which inmates can use to make calls. Unfortunately, they’re really expensive to use. It’s worth agreeing a certain time for you to talk so they can be sure to get a hold of you. Also, you should know that the prison staff are allowed to listen in on your conversations. There’s likely to be a short message at the start of the call telling you about it.
There’s no limit to it. That means you can write as much as and often as you like. And the same applies to your parent who’s in prison! It’s just not quite as quick and easy as writing an email. But at least you can write a lot more in a letter than you can in a text message.
Sadly, it’s not always possible, even for birthdays or Christmas. Again, the rules differ by federal state. Ask the prison whether and for what occasions you’re allowed to send parcels and what you can put in them. If inmates are allowed to receive parcels, they’ll be opened and checked for banned items.