Any lawyer can visit someone in prison

Pretrial detention - guide for relatives

Permission to visit, packages, correspondence - signposts for relatives

Pretrial detention is always tough - for everyone involved. For relatives, friends and life partners, there is the additional difficulty that in the vast majority of cases they are confronted with such a situation for the first time that everyday life gets completely off track, and quick decisions often have to be made in order to avert further damage that only the detainee knows where important documents are, and last but not least: that they have no information on how they can at least make his predicament a little easier.

Therefore, we provide some information below that can serve as a guide for relatives of prisoners on remand.

1. Where is the prisoner located?

If someone is taken into custody, a relative or a person they trust must be notified. In addition, the detainee can request to be able to notify someone himself if the interests of the investigation do not conflict. As a rule, someone from the group of relatives or confidants finds out that and where the person concerned is imprisoned, unless contact cannot be established.

If the communication didn't work out, you can try to find out more by calling the police, judge, public prosecutor or defense attorney. At the same time as ordering pre-trial detention, the judge determines which penal institution (JVA) the person concerned should be admitted to. This is basically regulated in the enforcement plan of the respective country. The police transport him to the prison, usually the officers who also carried out the judge's presentation. If a defense attorney was present at the judge's presentation, he usually also knows the prison. In the investigation file, which is returned to the police or the public prosecutor's office after the decision of the judge, the prison into which the briefing takes place is noted.

If the calls do not provide the whereabouts, you can ask the responsible judge and public prosecutor, visit them personally and ask for information.

If the prison is far away, for example from the family's place of residence, an application can be made to transfer the detainee to a nearby prison as an exception. The judge has the possibility, for special reasons, to designate a prison other than that provided for in the enforcement plan.

2. Visits to the prison

Permission to visit
Visits to prisoners on remand in the prison (correctional facility) are only possible with permission. Permission to visit is granted either by the public prosecutor responsible for the person concerned or by the judge. This is regulated differently from region to region, sometimes from judicial district to judicial district. In Hesse, visiting permits are usually issued by the public prosecutor.

Applications must usually be made in writing. You can submit the application by letter, but to speed it up you can also submit it directly to the responsible office of the public prosecutor's office or the court.

Visits from close relatives and spouses are usually permitted.

If several people are to visit at the same time, you must expressly state this in the application, including for children. How many visitors are allowed to come at the same time is regulated differently in the individual prisons. You can inquire about the maximum number of visitors by telephone from the prison. Usually a maximum of three people are admitted at the same time.

Your visit will be monitored, at least visually. The conversation may also be overheard. If you want or have to speak in a foreign language during your visit, please indicate this in the visit application. A sworn interpreter is then called in, the costs of which are borne by the visitor.

If you would like to visit the detainee several times, please also indicate this and apply for a permanent visit permit.

The granting of a permit may only be refused if the visit would endanger the purpose of the detention or if the visit would disrupt the order of the prison. This applies, for example, if there are indications that the visit should be used for blackout measures.

If an application for permission to visit is rejected, you can lodge a complaint against it.

Time, frequency and duration of the visits
When and how often you can visit the detainee differs from prison to prison: in some, visits are permitted once a week, in others only every 2 weeks. Days and times are just as different.

The following regulations currently apply to the penal institutions in Central Hesse in which pre-trial detention is carried out:

JVA Butzbach      
Kleeberger Str. 23, 35510 Butzbach, Germany
Tel. (06033) 8930

Visiting hours: Wednesday 8 a.m. - 12 p.m.

Giessen prison             
Gutfleischstr. 2A, 35390 Giessen
Tel. (0641) 934-1537

Visiting hours: Monday to Friday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. by appointment

JVA Limburg           
Walderdorffstr. 16, 65549 Limburg

Tel. (06431) 917233

Visiting hours: Tuesday 3.30 p.m. - 6.30 p.m., Wednesday 8 a.m. - 3.30 p.m., Thursday 12 p.m. - 5.30 p.m. Appointments by phone Monday to Friday 3 p.m. - 8 p.m.

As a precaution, you should inquire about the current days, times and modalities by telephone from the respective prison before your first visit.

The regular duration for a visit is 30 minutes.

If you would like to visit the detainee more often or outside of the usual visiting hours, or would you like to extend the duration of the visit, you must apply for this separately to the judge, but you need reasons for this. Further visits are permitted if they serve to deal with personal, legal or business matters which cannot be postponed and which cannot be dealt with in writing by the prisoner or third party alone.

A special permit comes into question, for example, if the visitor has a long journey to which the duration of the visit of 30 minutes is disproportionate.

Visit schedule
When you enter the prison, you present your permission to visit and your ID. For security reasons, there is an exact personal check. Show up early: Due to limited space and personnel capacities, there may be longer waiting times.

The visit is usually supervised by a prison officer, in special cases by a detective who is familiar with the procedure. The content of the conversations held may also be checked. Furthermore, the inadmissible handover of objects should be prevented.

If you want or have to conduct the conversation with the detainee in a foreign language, an interpreter will be called in for the supervision by order of the judge (see above). Without an interpreter, the officer carrying out the surveillance will prevent the conversation in a foreign language and, if necessary, break off the visit.

You are often allowed to pull a drink or a cigarette from the vending machine set up in the visiting area.

3. Telephone calls

Telephone calls with an inmate on remand are rarely allowed. In individual cases, however, a well-founded application can be made to the judge. In particular, an application can be promising if the detainee cannot receive visits because his relatives live abroad.

4. Correspondence

The prisoner on remand can write and receive unlimited letters. However, every incoming and outgoing letter is opened and read before it is sent to the detainee

Handed over or forwarded to the recipient.

The inspection of letters is carried out either by the responsible judge or the public prosecutor. This is handled differently. A transfer of the control of letters to the public prosecutor is only possible with the consent of the detainee.

Only letters whose content has been found to be harmless are forwarded, especially with regard to the ongoing investigation.

So you need to think carefully about what you write in letters to the detainee.

Letters that also deal with facts related to the allegation can be confiscated as evidence. Letters with content that could endanger the order of the prison or the purpose of detention can also be stopped. Then the letter does not arrive, which can seriously disrupt communication.

Sometimes the letter control means that it takes a long time, up to several weeks, for a letter to reach the recipient. On the other hand, the prisoner and his communication partner can usually do little. Checking foreign-language letters takes a particularly long time, as they first have to be translated.

5. Packages

The direct transfer of objects to the detainee, e.g. during a visit, is not permitted. However, you can send him packages. The contents of the packages are checked by the prison before they are handed over.

It is required that you stick a so-called “parcel label” on the parcel. The prisoner on remand in the prison receives such stamps and can hand them over or send them to the person who is supposed to send him a package. The parcel label is used to approve the receipt of a parcel in advance.

In every prison there is a leaflet that tells you what is allowed in a package according to the regulations of the respective institution and what is not, how big and how heavy it can be. You will usually receive it with the parcel stamp. You must absolutely adhere to these guidelines, otherwise the delivery of the package will be refused.

The number of packages that an inmate may receive is usually limited by the respective prison. Receipt of parcels is usually permitted after delivery to the correctional facility, on birthdays and on major public holidays. If further parcels are not received, as is common practice, the detainee can obtain a decision from the judge on a case-by-case basis or request the judge's approval for additional parcels in advance.

Providing the detainee with equipment, such as a television set, is often complicated. The best way to find out what's going on and how it is handled is directly in the prison.

6. Clothes / laundry

Prisoners on remand are allowed to wear their own clothing even while in custody. They can only be required to wear institutional clothing if they do not have the opportunity to exchange their clothing and have it cleaned.

If the detainee receives regular visitors, he can hand the dirty laundry over to the visitor for washing and accept laundry brought by the visitor. Where this is not permitted, linen can be exchanged by sending linen packages.

However, some of the linen exchange must be approved in advance. You can clarify this by calling the prison by telephone.

7. Shopping, food, money

The detainee can purchase items for personal use through the so-called institution purchase. The frequency differs from prison to prison. Most of the time, shopping takes place once a week.

In addition, the prisoner on remand can obtain meals from restaurants approved by the prison.

He is not allowed to have cash. All purchases are therefore processed cashless. For this purpose, the prisoner on remand must have a corresponding credit on the institution account kept for him. For this purpose, relatives or other people can transfer amounts of money to the institution.

In the case of such a payment, the name of the prisoner on remand, his date of birth and the word purchase must be given as the intended purpose so that the amount can be clearly assigned if names are identical.

You can inquire about the bank details for transfers in favor of prisoners on remand in the Hessian prisons in the respective institution.