Visiting Rights

Know Your Rights pocket guide: “Visiting Rights in California Prisons”


Click to open a printable PDF version


Click to open a printable PDF version

What should I bring with me?

  • Picture ID (valid driver’s license, passport, or state, military, immigration, or Mexican Consulate ID).
  • Adults bringing minors must bring legal proof that (1) they are the parent or legal caregiver, or (2) the parent or legal caregiver consents to the visit.*
  • Money for vending machines (one dollar bills, quarters); car keys; prescribed medication for serious or life-threatening conditions (in original, labeled prescription bottle or package).*

What should I not bring with me?

  • Cell phones; weapons; drugs (without a prescription).

For more details, see Visiting a Friend or Loved One in Prison.

Can CDCR search me while I am visiting?

Yes, every visitor must walk through a metal detector. Visitors may be searched with an ION scanner or a drug-sniffing dog. You have the right to refuse a dog search and request a non-contact visit. CA. Code of Regulations, Title 15, Art. 7, Sec. 3173.2 (c)(2)(B).

As of Nov. 2016, regulations do not explicitly state that you have the right to refuse an ION scan. You may be able to refuse an ION Scanner and request a non-contact visit by pointing to 3173.2(c)(2)(B).

What happens if I am stopped after a search?

If a drug-sniffing dog, ION Scanner, or metal detector alerts positive for contraband:

  • A guard may ask to give you a clothed full-body search. 3173.2(c)(3)(B). You can refuse this search, but you will be denied a visit. 3173.2(c)(3)(B).
  • If no contraband is found, you should be granted a contact visit. 3173.2(c)(3)(B).
  • If contraband is found, you will be denied entrance, and may be subject to arrest. 3173.2(c)(3)(B).
  • If the alert is due to prescription medication, you may (1) provide current verified documentation from a licensed physician, physician’s assistant, or CNP for a contact visit, or (2) ask for a clothed body search for a non-contact visit. 3173.2(c)(4)(B).

Always ask for a copy of any document that you sign and for any documentation of a denied visit.

Can CDCR search my car while I am visiting?

Generally, no. CDCR may look through your car windows and briefly look in your trunk when you enter or exit, but otherwise may not search your car without a warrant, your consent, or reasonable suspicion that your car contains contraband.

What should I do if my rights are violated?

  • Ask to speak to the Watch Commander, and ask if they can override the officer’s decision.
  • Contact your local Inmate Family Council, which may be able to help you advocate for your rights, at
  • Contact Legal Services for Prisoners with Children at; 415-625-7049.

November 2016