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At A Better Day Than Yesterday Initiative Program Association (A Better Day), we strive to provide you with all the necessary tools you need to prepare your child for their first parental visit.  This page will provide you with a few tips to ensure a successful first visit and help your child feel comfortable about seeing the parent(s) for the first time from the origin of separation. So, let's dive into to helping you prepare!


Younger children have a difficult time putting time into perspective, so you may want to inform them a day or two before the scheduled visit. Older children usually need more preparatory time.  If there is a long separation period between the child and parent, we recommend correspondence prior to the initial visit.  The parent should write a letter to the child expressing their feeling about the upcoming visit and much the parent misses the child.   The letter is also an excellent opportunity to describe how the parent and child(ren) will spend time together during their visit as well as what the parent will wear, and any changes in the parent's appearance such as weight, hairstyle, or anything your child may notice.  You may also take the opportunity to describe the physical environment of the prison and visiting room  such as the color of the walls, arrangement of tables and chairs, other people, the correctional officers, etc.  Lastly, both the parent and the caregiver should give the child as much information as possible about what to expect on the day of the visit.

Before the First Visit...
  • Inform the child specifically when he/she will visit the parent.

  • Give the child a day, date, and time of the visit.

  • Indicate how long the visit will last, approximately 1-2 hours on average.

  • Use good judgment on when you inform the child of the visit. As a general rule, the younger the child, the closer to the visiting date you should inform the child of the upcoming parental visit.

  • We recommend several visits alone to the facility with the parent before the initial first visit with the child(ren).  This visit will prepare you for the initial first visit the child(ren), so you know what to expect during your plan visit with the child(ren).

  • Every visitor, including children, is searched before being admitted to the visiting room. The search usually includes a pat down search where an officer of the same gender uses their hands to pat down the body. Parents/Caregivers must be present when children are searched. The visitor also may be required to pass through a metal detection device and to remove their shoes and socks for inspection.

  • Be respectful and courteous when interacting with correctional officers and other staff. Treat them as you would want to be treated.

  • If you encounter a problem, ask to speak to the "Officer in Charge" for the day. The "In-charge" officer is typically the Warden, Assistant Warden, or a staff member of rank. Explain your problem calmly. If you do not get any satisfaction, follow up with a letter to the Warden or Regional Administrator.   Remember, always be respectful and to the point. You will get better results.

  • Always supervise your children.  Also, be aware of your own behavior and always follow the visiting rules to avoid the risk of losing your visiting privilege.

  • Most visiting rooms do have vending machines for snacks and soft drinks.  Make sure you and children are rested and have a good breakfast before starting out for the visiting day.   This creates a better mood and a more enjoyable visit.

  • Polaroid pictures are usually available for $2.00 per picture and can be purchased by the visitor or by the inmate through their account. It's best to confirm arrangements for pictures ahead of time.




  • This process will allow applications to be screened at the Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) central office, and approved visitors will experience less time waiting to be processed at the facility. Paper applications for first time visitors will be allowed for those who plan to visit during the upcoming Christmas holidays.


  •  Visitors may only be approved to visit multiple offenders if the offenders are immediate family members. Visitors will be limited to visiting only one offender that is not immediate family. “Not immediate family” may include, but is not limited to, fiancés, girlfriends, boyfriends, neighbors, cousins, and friends. Visitors who are already approved and visiting multiple offenders must select and submit the name of the one friend they wish to continue visiting by March 15, 2014. This change will go into effect on April 1, 2014.


  • All visitor applications (new or previously approved) expire 36 months (three years) after the date of approval. A new, updated visitor application must be submitted online at least 30 days before expiration to continue uninterrupted visitation. The Virginia Department of Corrections may conduct an annual record check on each visitor. Prior visitation approval does not guarantee approval continuation.


  •  Effective January 2, 2014, VADOC policy regarding minors visiting with sex offenders will also change. All sex offenders receiving visits from minors must receive an evaluation prior to the approval of the visitation. Minors who have visited previously and are already approved and documented in the VADOC Visitor Tracking System will be allowed to continue visiting while the offender evaluations are completed. Prior approval does not guarantee approval continuation.


  • Applicants should allow 30 days for online applications to be processed. Out of state applicants should allow up to 90 days for processing. To avoid delays in processing, all information requested on the application must be accurate and complete. A response will be sent to the email address provided by the applicant. Approved visitors must still bring valid picture identification that matches the information provided on the application. Visitor applicants that do not have an email account and/or access to a computer may submit a paper application. Paper applications, which will require longer processing times, are available at the facilities and must be mailed to: Visitor Registration, Virginia Department of Corrections, P. O. Box 26963, Richmond, VA. 

Click Here to View the Department of Corrections Visitor Approval Application

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