POLICY: It is the policy of The Merced County Sheriff’s Office Corrections Division to permit inmates to have visits with family, friends, and their attorneys or designee under conditions that are consistent with the security of the facility.
DEPARTMENTAL INTEREST: The safety of inmates, visitors and staff requires implementation of reasonable and necessary security and safety standards, control, supervision, and oversight of inmates and visitors during visiting periods.
PROCEDURE: Visitation regulations will include regular scheduling of visits at times that will assure reasonable access to inmates by family, friends and attorneys/investigators.
The Corrections Lieutenant will establish limits to the number and length of visit appropriate to the size of the visitation area and other relevant factors. Attorney/Investigator visits are not scheduled, but are processed on a first come, first served basis and conform to regular daily events and security issues. Notice will be given to both visitors and inmates of contraband restrictions and visiting regulations, including procedures for obtaining approval for family members and friends to visit. This information will be included in the facility's Inmate Hand Book.
APPROVAL: Each inmate will submit the names of potential visitors using the Inmate Visitor Information Form. Inmates may complete and submit the form upon intake processing. The inmate may submit a new form each month between the 1st and 5th day. Inmates may have as many visitors on their visiting list as they like. Only two visitors are allowed to visit each visiting day. The visitors will be signed in on a first-come, first-served basis. Merced County Corrections Division staff will approve or deny the Inmate’s Visitor request after conducting a criminal history evaluation, warrants check and local Incident Report System. Visitor requests will be approved or denied within five (5) days from the date the visitation form was submitted. The inmate may appeal the decision to the Corrections Lieutenant through the grievance procedure. A Shift Sergeant may for compelling reasons, approve a special visit and that visit will be documented in an Incident Report. Correctional Staff will complete the approval/denial process using the following guidelines:
- A request which does not contain complete or accurate information will be denied.
- Persons with an active warrant will be denied.
- Persons convicted of a felony, convicted of a drug offense, charged with a violent or sex related crime, or has been arrested in the last five (5) years for any reason, will be denied.
- Persons who have an active restraining order against the inmate will be denied.
Visiting Process: Any person, other than attorneys/investigators and official visitors, wishing to visit an inmate housed at a Merced County Correctional Facility will report to the Lobby Window to sign in for a visit at the times designated on the visiting schedule. Visitors will be processed In the order in which they arrive.
- Visiting sign-ups begin the hour before the visit is to occur. Visitors must complete the sign in process not less than 15 minutes before the scheduled visit to ensure that the inmate has time to prepare for the visit.
- Visitors will be required to present a current and valid picture identification which could be any United States driver’s license, or any United States identification card, Military Identification Card or United States Passport.
- Persons under the age of 18 must be accompanied by their parent or guardian in order to visit. Valid and current State issued picture identification is required. The parent or guardian must also provide a copy of the minor’s birth certificate or legal documentation showing proof of guardianship. An infant counts as one of the two allowed visitors.
- Emancipated minors or underage spouses, with legal documentation may visit.
- No minor child, related or unrelated, who was an exploited victim of the inmate will be allowed to visit.
- The personnel assigned to the Lobby Window will verify the visitor’s identification information, determine if the visitor has been cleared to visit, and log the inmate’s name and visiting information.
- At the end of visiting sign-ups, the correctional officer will retrieve the visiting information from the Lobby Window and place the appropriate inmates into the visiting room.
- Visits will comply with Title 15 and may occur up to twice a week for no less than thirty minutes if otherwise permitted.
- Visitors will not be allowed to bring anything into the visiting areas. Keys, their ID card, and a baby bottle if they are bringing in an infant, are the ONLY exceptions. The visitor will be directed to secure any other items outside of the jail facility.
- Visitors are required to dress appropriately while visiting inmates in this facility. Revealing, see through, low cut or other provocative clothing is not acceptable while visiting in this facility. A specific dress code is posted in the lobby of each facility. Visitors who are not dressed appropriately will not be allowed to visit.
- Cancellation of regular visiting for safety/security reasons will be at the discretion of the Corrections Lieutenant and/or Shift Sergeant.
- A mother may breastfeed her child during visitation. Due to the unique psychological and emotional issues involved with confinement, for the safety and security of all parties involved, it is essential that nursing mothers be discreet, i.e., breast concealed from casual observation, for example covered with blanket or other such item when in the visiting area. Failure to do so shall result in termination of visiting for that day. Repeat violations shall be referred to a Corrections Lieutenant.
DENIAL OR TERMINATION OF A VISIT: A visit may be denied or terminated and visiting privileges suspended under the following circumstances:
- Visitors under the influence of drugs or alcohol;
- Refusal by a visitor to submit to search procedures;
- Refusal or failure to produce sufficient identification for purposes of registration, or the falsifying of identifying information by a visitor;
- Violation of institutional rules by a visitor or inmate;
- Failure to prevent children from disturbing other persons in the visiting area;
- Inappropriate display of affection, suggestive activity, or inappropriate dress; and/or
- Other conduct or conditions deemed by the shift supervisor and/or Jail Administrator to be disruptive to visiting operations or to security and good order.
A full report on any such incident will be submitted by the attending Corrections Officer to the Shift Sergeant and if the inmate was involved, a Disciplinary Report will be filed against the inmate involved.
When an individual is not approved, notice of and reasons for the exclusion will be given to the inmate who submitted the individual's name within five (5) days of the date the form was submitted.
Searches: A sign is posted at each visitation entrance stating facility rules and search policy for visitors. Each visitor must register and submit to a search prior to entry into the visiting room. Visitors, who refuse registration, fail to consent to search, or violate any of the posted facility rules, will be denied admission. If there is reasonable suspicion that the person is carrying contraband, a further consensual pat-down search may be undertaken and/or entry will be denied.
Visitation Schedule: Inmates will be allowed a minimum of two 30 minute visits per week. Visits for days other than the scheduled days and times may be approved by the Corrections Lieutenant or their designee.
Visiting Conditions: Visits will be supervised by staff at all times. Visits will be at such determined times and for as long as but not less than 30 minutes that permit equitable distribution of visitation resources. Space in the visitation area will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. The shift supervisor may extend visits by reason of distance traveled, past infrequent visits, or other compelling reasons.
Attorney/Investigator Visits: A visitation area will be available to ensure privileged communications between inmates and their attorneys; however, the area used for these visits is subject to general staff supervision. Each attorney requesting to see an inmate must be identified through their California State Bar card and photo identification. Inmates may refuse to see any attorney.
Once the inmate is placed into an interview room, the attorney/investigator will be allowed entry into the interview room.
News Media: Any News Media persons requesting entry and/or access to interviewing staff or inmates must first obtain authorization from the Sheriff or his/her designee. Refer to Merced County Sheriff’s Office Policy, Chapter 3, Section 346, News Media Relations.
Faith Based Organizations: Any Faith Based Organization requesting entry into Merced County Corrections Facilities will be processed through a background check through the Corrections Lieutenant designee and posted at each facility. An organization must be recognized as legitimate and ordination papers will be verified before any representative may be allowed entry.
Facility Tours/Special Event Entry: Any individual requesting entry into Merced County Corrections Facilities will be processed through a background check by the Corrections Lieutenant designee prior to being allowed entry into a facility. The individual will provide their Name, Date of Birth, U.S. Government Issued Identification Card number, contact number and reason for entry. Upon approval the requesting individual will be contacted and an entry date and time will be scheduled. The tour/special event will be accompanied by a Corrections Officer.
Records: Inmate Visitor Information Forms will be scanned and imported in the document section of the inmate’s computer booking file. Daily records of persons entering the facility are contained in a binder and stored as needed for future reference.