Visitation Guide published by CIVIC to enable awareness for visiting people in immigrant detention facilities

We received this from an active group called CIVIC (Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement), which is the national immigration detention visitation network in the USA.

Visitation, visiting people inside immigrant detention centers, enhances their psychological wellbeing as well as their human need for companionship from outside, and it is also necessary to prevent human righs abuses from taking place or from being easily inflicted.

When people from the outside visit, those inside feel a little safer, knowing that those on the outside know their situation. And they get a break from being forced to be locked up for an uncertain amount of time. Visiting is very important, powerful, and very much needed. Here is what CIVIC wrote:

Everyday immigrants disappear and are detained by the U.S. government.

For example, Ana is a human trafficking victim who was detained for over a year, locked in solitary confinement, and forced by a guard to sleep on the cement floor of her cell until Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) ended this isolation and abuse.

Over 32,000 immigrants like Ana remain isolated in these remote detention facilities today because no
law protects a right to visitation, phone calls can cost up to $5.00 per minute, and 46% of detained migrants are transferred at least twice–often out of state and away from their families.

CIVIC is changing this reality by building and strengthening community visitation programs that are dedicated to ending the isolation and abuse of men and women in immigration detention. Visitation programs connect persons in civil immigration detention with community members. These volunteer visitors provide immigrants in detention with a link to the outside world, while also preventing human rights abuses by creating a community presence in otherwise invisible detention facilities.

CIVIC recently released A Guide to Touring U.S. Immigration Detention Facilities & Building Alliances, designed for communities across the country hoping to start a visitation program using ICE’s new Visitation Directive.

The benefit of this resource is that the general guidelines are tailored to the unique request of using the Visitation Directive as a tool to establish contact and set up a permanent visitation program. In addition, this manual provides an overview of some of the successes and roadblocks visitation programs have encountered in the first year of the Visitation Directive’s existence.

CIVIC is setting in motion a national movement to combat the isolating experience of immigration detention. To get involved or for more information, please visit their website at

Also please visit this blog with a lot of information about immigration detention, made to make people aware of immigrant detention and visiting people inside these prisons:

The Visitation Manual/Directive can be found here (PDF).

Here is a YouTube about CIVIC and visiting:

Visiting at HDSP is changing as of Jan. 7th but NDOC is not communicative about it nor practical

I was in prison and you came
to visit me (Matthew 25:36) 

We have gathered that after January 7th, visiting at High Desert State Prison will be on a first come first serve basis, instead of by appointment.

There is still no information on the NDOC website about this important change for all who have loved ones inside HDSP.

We all know how important, if not vital, it is to allow visits to prisoners. It even makes a job for a c.o. easier if the prisoners are less tense because they have had a visit with a loved one. It makes re-entry much easier, and thus it reduces future recidive.

To install a “first come first serve” visiting rule creates a lot of problems, for example if you come from far away (and most visitors do, in Nevada), it is not acceptable that you can not visit because there is a large cue before you (as is often the case at HDSP, even if you are on time).

Also, where do the visitors wait? How do they know who was first? Do they queue up with their cars? How much time is eaten from the visits because the prisoners do not know they have a visit or who have to be collected at the moment the visitor is allowed in? In many states this has been practice and it goes well, but they have personell in place who deal with getting visitors processed quickly and they do not turn away people as long as they come between certain times, unless it is a very busy day like Mothers’ Day.

It may sound better, to no longer have appointments, but visits on a “first come first serve”-basis is unfair and not practical in the way there is no clear announcement or anything for the future visitors who have to plan their journeys well ahead (for instance by having to book a plane). NDOC, a professional, taxfunded governmental organization, should advertise and communicate these important changes from those who finance their prisons (the public) much clearer and more professionally.

This is not the only visiting issue that NDOC should address. Not a few people have been refused a visit or more, even many more, without the possibility to have a video visit instead.

NDOC should give open information to every visitor on their website as well as to all visitors who come now, and over the telephone.

Families Trek From SoCal to Pelican Bay In Hopes of Seeing Loved Ones Held in Solitary Confinement

From: Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity
Dec 7th 2012

Press Contact:  Azadeh Zohrabi
Cell:  310.612.9706

Interviews and photos available by request

San Francisco – A group of family members of prisoners in Pelican Bay State Prison’s Security Housing Units (SHUs) have organized a charter bus to offer free rides for other family members to visit their loved ones at Pelican Bay. The trip is being organized by California Families Against Solitary Confinement (CFASC) in an effort to support families who have been unable to make the long trip to Pelican Bay due to financial restraints. The trip will begin in Los Angeles leaving at 3:00 a.m. on Friday, December 7th, and will stop briefly in San Francisco to pick up other families. They will return from Pelican Bay on Sunday, December 9th, after the last visits around 3:00 p.m.

The bus is full, and taking 55 family members including children to Pelican Bay. Organizers plan to reunite families before the winter holidays. It takes roughly 16 hours to drive from Los Angeles to Pelican Bay. “The long distance and costs associated with travel make it incredibly difficult for family members to visit their loved ones who are locked up at Pelican Bay. The state says our family members that we love are the ‘worst of the worst’, which not only gives the state power to lock them in cages in horrible conditions, but empowers the state to make visiting with those they love – and those who love them – almost impossible,” said Dolores Canales, whose son is in Pelican Bay’s SHU.  “We organized this trip without expectations, and found so much motivation and interest among family members that we have to drive a full car along with the chartered bus, and there’s not space for some people at all.”

As a result of the difficulties involved in visiting family imprisoned in Pelican Bay, many of the family members on this shared bus ride are visiting their loved ones for the first time, some after 10 or more years of separation.  “CFASC is creating this amazing opportunity for me. My brother was taken away from us years ago, and since he’s been at Pelican Bay, I haven’t been able to afford to visit much. His isolation has totally devastated our family. This is an incredible experience that I’m hoping can be repeated in the future,” says Marie Levin, whose brother lives in Pelican Bay’s SHU and is one of the plaintiffs named in the lawsuit filed with the Center for Constitutional Rights which alleges that the use of solitary confinement in California violates due process and amounts to torture. He was also among the first prisoners to call for hunger strikes in July, 2011.

Prisoners in Pelican Bay began a hunger strike last year to protest the conditions of extreme isolation in the SHUs. One of the demands that they issued to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation included expanded visiting privileges. The prisoners housed in SHU’s across the state are only allowed to visit with their families for one to two hours behind glass each weekend if the family can afford the time and expense of the three day trip. Many of these prisoners have not felt another human’s touch in decades.


News from the local media

Detective says people victimized by attorneys should seek criminal charges

By Carri Geer Thevenot

Posted: Mar. 25, 2011 | 2:06 a.m.

A Las Vegas police detective wants members of the public to pursue criminal charges if they suspect they have been victimized by their attorneys.
“They think their only recourse is to file complaints with the Nevada State Bar,” Detective James Downing said. …….


For visitors to Ely:
From the Ely Times:

Direct air service to McCarran International to begin May 15

Yeah. Vegas, baby! Great Lakes Airlines is scrapping its daily Denver flight and replacing it with a midday turnaround flight to Las Vegas McCarran International Airport.  That change is scheduled to begin May 15, Mike Coster, Yelland Field Airport manager, told the White Pine County Board of County Commissioners.

“Las Vegas?” a pleasantly surprised WPC Commission Chairman John Lampros asked. “That’s wonderful.”

For more of this story, click on or type the URL below:

Nevada DOC Recommends State Prison Closure and charging onetime for a visit at ESP!

From a visitors’point of view: Has Howard Skolnik ever seen the empty visiting room at ESP? Does he know how much it already costs visitors to get to Ely from anywhere? What about cutting the number of lawsuits against NDOC by NDOC keeping to their own rules?

From: Correctional News

Prison officials here say $9 million a year could be saved annually if the Nevada State Prison in Carson City was closed and turned into a tourist attraction or training center, according to reports.

CARSON CITY, Nev. — Prison officials here say $9 million a year could be saved annually if the Nevada State Prison in Carson City was closed and turned into a tourist attraction or training center, according to reports. In promoting efficiency in state government, Nevada Department of Corrections Director Howard Skolnik said other prisons could house the more than 600 inmates presently at Nevada State Prison, the state would not need to build another prison for 10 years.

Money saved from the closure could be put into other areas, such as education.In his proposed budget submitted to Gov. Jim Gibbons, Skolnik not only called for the prison to be closed, but suggested the elimination of extra pay for those officers working in rural areas. Skolnik said he reduced the extra pay for rural officers to get within the 10 percent reduction ordered by the governor.

He also recommended a one-time $15 charge for a person who visits an inmate, which would cover part of the background check cost. The downturn in the economy has also nixed a plan to build an industrial park in Clark County on 22 acres the prison owns.

Nevada Correctional Officers Association President Gene Columbus questioned how much money could be saved and predicted that eliminating extra pay would result in a “mass exodus” of workers.

Indiana bars extended family from seeing more than 1 prisoner

Limit on prison visits angers South Bend family

By ALICIA GALLEGOS Tribune Staff Writer
May 23, 2010
SOUTH BEND — When Sam Dickens’ son went to prison earlier this year, the father didn’t think he’d have any problem visiting him at Westville Correctional facility.

After all, Dickens’ nephew is also an inmate in an Indiana prison, and Dickens has been visiting the young man for years.

But Dickens said he was shocked to learn he couldn’t be on his son’s visiting list.

Instead, new visiting restrictions at the Indiana Department of Correction meant Dickens had to choose to visit his son or his nephew, not both.

“I’m so frustrated. It’s just not right,” Dickens said during a recent interview at his home. “They’re separating the families.”IDOC officials explain the new visitation rule was implemented this year because of security concerns.

The restriction specifies extended family members and friends can visit only one IDOC inmate per six months. The rule, said IDOC spokesman Doug Garrison, is to curb rampant contraband trafficking plaguing Indiana prisons.

“We’re trying to reduce the chances of people bringing contraband into our facilities,” Garrison said.

Contraband problems

Garrison says the new visitor restriction will help the IDOC better regulate who is coming into their facilities and who might be bringing prohibited items.The spokesman stressed the rule applies only to extended family members and does not affect fathers, mothers, children, sisters, brothers or grandparents.

But relatives such as Dickens and Tracy Franklin argue that many times it’s extended family members, such as aunts and uncles, who have helped raise children.

Franklin, of South Bend, has a son and nephew in Indiana prisons, along with a cousin. She only recently found out about the new restriction.

“I think family members should be able to see their loved ones,” she said. “That’s unfair. I can’t go see my nephew. I can’t go see my cousin.”

Dickens said his nephew, Greg Dickens, always looked up to him and that going to visit the man “empowers him,” and “kinda helps keep him alive.”Greg Dickens was convicted as a teenager of murder in the death of South Bend Police Cpl. Paul Deguch. He is now serving a life sentence.

Dickens’ son Samson Dickens just recently began serving a 6-year sentence for assault, his father said.

Garrison acknowledges the visiting policy will no doubt adversely affect families who are not at fault. But, he said the rising climate of contraband has forced correctional facilities to tighten their rules.

Take for instance one recent month, Garrison said, where IDOC officials confiscated 250 cell phones from one prison facility.”It’s absolutely crazy,” he said.

Indiana prisons are not alone.

In recent years, banned items — particularly cell phones — have steadily grown in prisons across the country, according to the American Correctional Association.

A visitor in a wheelchair sitting on hordes of cell phones. Civilians throwing tennis balls or footballs over prison yard fences with hidden items. Visitors slipping products inside sleeves.

“Inmates are creative,” ACA spokesman Eric Schultz said.Schultz said prisons are making various efforts to fight contraband, although he said he has not heard of other prisons restricting extended family members.

“That’s interesting,” he said of the IDOC rule. “I can’t say we have heard that.”

In Michigan, a similar visiting restriction is in effect, according to the MDOC website.

Proposed visitors can be on visiting lists for immediate family members, but only on the list of one prisoner who is not immediate family.

The rule indicates aunts, uncles or other family members can be included as “immediate family,” if they can provide verification they served as a surrogate parent.MDOC Spokesman John Cordell said he is not surprised about Indiana enforcing the new restriction.

“Unfortunately visitors are one of the ways contraband comes into prisons,” he said.

‘Balance needed’

Visitors might not seem like that big a deal to those on the outside, but the Rev. David Link says for prisoners, they mean the world.

Link, former University of Notre Dame law school dean and now prison chaplain and deputy director of religious and community services for the IDOC, said inmates who have more family visits have a better attitude while in prison and are more likely to be successful upon release.”There’s not much that’s more important to the incarcerated than being able to visit with their families,” Link said. “It doesn’t just make them turn their life around, it makes them a better-acting prisoner.”

Link adds that non-family members — such as mentors, friends, or teachers — can often have an even greater impact on prisoners than an immediate family member. On the same note, an immediate family member can easily be the bad influence.

“We gotta look at it as a case-by-case basis,” Link said. “Someone has gotta look at who is best to visit and who might not be best to visit.”

Rather than a blanket limitation, Link believes, a better balance needs to be made between visiting benefits and maintaining security.

“We can’t let up on the security,” he said. “But we also gotta think of people as individuals.”As for the IDOC, Garrison said extended family members who would like to appeal the visiting restriction can always request an exception from the prison superintendent.

“I would encourage people to do that,” he said.

Dickens said he has made the difficult decision to visit his son in prison and not his nephew. He is considering appealing to the IDOC for an exception.

Tensions high as budget prompts cuts at Nevada prisons

Prisoners are Humans too!

From: Las Vegas Sun

By Cy Ryan
Thursday, April 29, 2010

CARSON CITY – To make budget cuts, Nevada prisons have removed staff from visiting towers and cut back on training, said Howard Skolnik, director of the state Department of Corrections. He told the Legislative Interim Finance Committee tensions are growing at the High Desert Correctional Center at Indian Springs.

Despite the reductions, Deputy Director Jeff Mohlenkamp said the prison system would end up $2 million to $2.5 million short of money in its budget at the end of this fiscal year.

Mohlenkamp said the prison has been in the hole in past year, sometimes by as much as $3.5 million. He said the cutbacks this year mean the shortfall is less.

He said there is $1 million less coming in from inmates working at jobs in the community because there are few jobs in the sluggish economy. And there were fewer forest fires last year, meaning less revenue from the inmate work force.

The prison system was hit with a $500,000 stale claim it had to pay, Mohlenkamp said.

Assemblywoman Kathy McClain, D-Las Vegas, questioned why the prison didn’t go to 12-hour shifts, which would save money and reduce overtime. Skolnik replied, “Twelve won’t help us.” A study showed the prison wouldn’t save money by converting from eight- to 12-hour shifts, the director said.

“We have really shut down overtime,” Skolnik said. It is used only in life-threatening emergencies, he said.

Asked about the Southern Nevada Correctional Center near Las Vegas, Skolnik said negotiations are underway for California to use it.

He said he wants to keep the prison as a “safety valve” in case Nevada’s inmate population spikes. Correctional experts are predicting the number of inmates to grow one-half of 1 percent each year over the next five to 10 years.

Read mor ehere: Las Vegas Sun

From: Las Vegas Review Journal:

Apr. 29, 2010
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal
Corrections chief says furloughs could spur violence in state prisons

CARSON CITY — Department of Corrections Director Howard Skolnik warned legislators Thursday that violence could break out in state prisons starting in July, when he will have fewer correctional officers on duty because of mandatory furloughs.

“We are sitting on a powder keg the way things are going,” Skolnik told the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee. “I just can’t tell you when the fuse will be lit.”

Skolnik said two unprovoked attacks on correctional officers have occurred in recent weeks at Southern Desert Correctional Center in Indian Springs, where staff was limited. He had refused to authorize overtime because of the state’s budget shortfall. The unprovoked attacks were the first he could remember.

Read more here

Visiting and writing

This was written in 2005 for the FFUP Newsletter. SInce the internet host will cease to exist soon, we re-publish this here.

by D.

After giving this some thought, I have decided that my primary concern is not only the closure of the inhumane concentration camp and implement of racial/ethnic cleansing, but it is also – even while it still may operate – to have a system of real checks and balances. Right now, there is only a sham of such a recourse in the form of exhaustive remedies and CCE and ICRS. And these are only available for the inmate. I have never heard of an inmate, who has utilized these remedies, to have actually won his case. Even though he may have every evidence, and even court orders, he usually (always that I have known) loses.

But, it is the free citizen, like myself; the visitor, the correspondent, that has no recourse – unless you have the time and money to hire a lawyer to file a civil suit.

My experience with WSPF has been one in which they have taken sentences out of context and portions of visits and made them into something (a conflict with the Administrative Code, and worse, their own special little rules and regulations) that was completely made up on their part. For instance, most recently they took a sentence out of one of my letters to an inmate, where I said I would send in to a pen pal service for him. In his letters to this pen pal service, this inmate always (always) put in the responding letter that he was in prison. In some form or another, he mentioned that he was incarcerated. I would send in his letter and the $6.00 that it cost to find a pen pal. Unknown to me, he had also written this service and mentioned that he would like to place an ad for himself. They (WSPF) says that he had planned to place an ad without telling them he was in prison and that constituted fraud. WSPF decided that, because I was paying for and sending ‘his’ letter to answer other ads, that I must also be part of the attempt to conceal that he was in prison in the ad that he planned to put in. As a result, they charged me with fraud, and demoted him from level 4 to level 1 or 2. (I’m not sure which). Although I had all the proof, they would not even consider that I was not involved or had knowledge of any wrong doing, or infringement of codes.

As a matter of fact, I was so distraught that my personal rights and freedoms could be so maligned, I also wrote legislators, the Governor Doyle, newspapers, etc. And no one responded. And I see this kind of power and control over ordinary citizens all the time. No agency should have that much control. There should be a recourse for families and incarcerated both.

The idea of the level system is a total sham. Many have gone through the levels and been dropped for nothing. And at the same time, many have been transferred out – for no apparent reason – without ever completing the level 4.

Court orders, protecting the inmates and their properties (legal and personal) have no protection within the walls of WSPF. They are able to confiscate, destroy, deface at will. And no one will put an end to this. Even though it has been decided that those in charge of such institutions need to obey their own laws to show that it is important to follow rules and regulations, it rarely happens. I have heard again and again the break down of court ordered protections. There needs to be someone – a real someone, not the imagined ‘monitor’ – that steps in and makes this ‘giant’ of small people with a little power, follow their own rules and the laws of this country. All the time, not just when someone is watching.