Visiting at each institution is slightly different. Usually other families who are waiting will be happy to answer your questions if it is your first visit.
Normally, visitors will wait outside until their appointment or number is called. Dress appropriately for inclement weather. Then you will go into the Visitor Processing Center and begin the process of checking in. You may be asked to fill out a form with your Loved One’s information and your information or you may just be called to the desk by your appointment name. Have your ID, your children’s birth certificates, and your paperwork filled out and ready. You will present your ID that you used on your visiting approval form and the officer will verify that you are an approved visitor. You will receive a CDCR Form 1000 and you will be directed to go through security before you can proceed to the visiting room. The visiting staff will record the items you are bringing in and inspect your garments to make sure you are in compliance with the regulations. If you are wearing something that is not approved, you will be asked to change your clothing to something appropriate. All prisons have a trailer located outside the Visitor Processing Center called Friends Outside. They have acceptable clothing that you can change into for your visit.
At the processing counter, you will be asked to remove your shoes, belts, and any other metal items which could set off the metal detector. All your items will be inspected and you will walk through the metal detector. Once through, your arm will be stamped with a stamp which you must show when you check out for the day. After you have completed the screening, you will proceed through the gates and to the Visiting area where there may be additional check-in processing with the officers there.
Additional Screening with ION Scanner
Some prisons have added additional screening for controlled substances. An ION Scanner is similar to the machine used at the airport to detect explosives, but the machine in the prison is calibrated to detect drugs.
When you are called to the counter for processing, you will touch a button on the “Randomizer.” The Randomizer is a machine that randomly chooses who will be ION scanned. It is set to screen a given percentage of people who visit. The percentage for each prison is determined in Sacramento and ranges from ~5% to ~40% of visitors. When you press the button, you will see either a green light (Pass) or a red light (Additional screening). If a green light illuminates, you can proceed with normal processing to your visit. If a red light illuminates, you will go into a separate room where the ION Scanner is located. The officer trained to do the test will swab your hands with a small piece of special paper. The officer may also swab a section of your clothing, at their discretion. The swab is inserted into the Scanner, and in a few seconds a digital screen will either show green (negative for substances) or it will show red (substances detected.) The machine is set to detect a variety of substances; for instance TCP (marijuana) and LSD, to name a couple. If the Scanner returns a positive result, you are escorted by an officer of the same sex into the bathroom where you will be allowed to wash your hands. Be careful not to touch anything after washing hands (faucets, door handles, etc.). The officer will use a clean swab and perform the test again. If the result is negative, you will continue processing to your visit as usual. If a ‘double positive’ comes up (each of the scans showed substance) you will receive a clothed pat down by an officer of the same sex. You must give your consent for this to occur! If you consent and nothing is found during the pat down, you will be offered a visit behind glass, IF one is available. You do not have to consent to this pat down. However, if you refuse the pat down, you will not be allowed to visit. And, on your next visit, you will receive a pat down again and visit behind the glass. Note: some cases of a double positive result from the ION Scanner being dirty from use. Before being swabbed for a second time, you should request that the machine be cleaned before scanning a 2nd time. Often the problem is solved.
At the conclusion of your visit, you must go through the opposite process to leave the prison. Your ID will be returned to you and you will be asked to show each item you brought into the prison such as glasses, clear bag, jacket, etc. You will be asked to display the stamp on your arm and your ID will be verified against your Form 1000 before you will be able to leave. Processing out at the end of the visit day can take a long time, so to avoid having to wait in long lines, you may want to plan to end your visit a few minutes before the end of the day.