This document is to help familiarize you with the rules and process of going into OSP.
When to arrive
Please arrive between 7am and 7:15 am. Please show up on time! It takes awhile to be processed into the prison. I know, it is crazy early for a wedding. The ceremony will start at 8am, and we have 20 minutes for everything including time for pictures at the end (by their photographer–you cannot bring a camera into the prison). So we will be done by 8:20, and then we’ll be able to visit while other people get married. We will probably be in the prison till around 11 am, and then go back to my house.
Where it is
Oregon State Penitentiary, 2605 State St, Salem OR 97301
Google Maps will get you close, here is a more explicit map of where to park:
What NOT to wear
- No blue of any shade (because the inmates wear blue). Especially no blue jeans. Dark purple can look too blue. Teal is generally OK if it’s on the green side.
- No underwire bras (because they set off the metal detector). You must wear a sports bra or other non-underwire bra. You do have to wear a bra, it is in the rules. 🙂
- Nothing too tight, especially not tight yoga-type pants.
- Nothing sheer or see through.
- Nothing with a low-cut front – shirts should be a max of 2″ below the collarbone.
- No shorts or skirts shorter than 2″ above the knee.
- No camouflage.
- No hats, scarves, shawls, or anything else you could leave behind. If you wear a jacket you will have to keep it on the whole time–you cannot remove any articles of clothing while you are inside.
- No sunglasses (prescription glasses are OK).
These items you CAN wear:
- Sandals, including flip-flops.
- Tank tops if the straps are 1″ thick or more.
- Capris, or skirts that are no shorter than 2″ above the knee.
- Small bits of metal on clothing and in jewelry are usually OK, but if you are worried about the metal detector don’t wear it or be prepared to remove it and put it back on (i.e. a belt buckle).
What to bring to the wedding
- Your ID (no exceptions, you absolutely must bring this!)
- A backup set of clothes if you are at all worried about your outfit.
- If you drove, bring a door key without a beeper, or, you can leave your keys in my car or in a locker. Lockers are 25 cents.
- You cannot bring anything else at all into the visiting room. There are a few more items allowed if you have an infant, and there are a few exceptions for medical reasons. If either of these cases apply to you, email me to discuss it. Do not assume you can bring in any medical items–let me check for you.
What to expect
Below there is some info on what to expect in general. The sign in process may be a little different on the wedding day, I’m not sure.
Here is how prison weddings work: they do them twice a year, so 5-10 couples will be getting married that day. The people waiting to get married and/or done being married sit in one half of the visiting room, and the ceremonies take place one at a time in the other section.
We have our own officiant and write our own vows. There is an official photographer who will take some photos that we can order prints of later.
If you are visiting a day other than the wedding
What you can optionally bring
- For the vending machines – quarters and dollar coins. There are change machines in the lobby. No paper money is allowed in the visiting room. Coins must be in a clear plastic bag. (I always have a few dollars with me if you get hungry.)
- Up to 5 photographs to share. (no nudity, they will be inspected).
When to arrive
- If you are coming for normal visiting, the visiting hours are 7:15 am to 10:15 am, and 12:30 to 3:45 pm.
- For morning visits, I generally arrive between 7am and 7:15. There are not a lot of people in the morning, especially during the week, so it is not a long wait.
- For afternoon visits, I generally arrive around 12, so I can sign in early because it is more crowded.
What to expect
You don’t have to remember any of this, it’s just FYI.
- When we get there, we sign in at the desk. You sign your name on the check in list, and then they look at your ID, confirm you are on the visiting list, and stamp your hand with invisible ink.
- We wait until they start taking people in. They will call Jabari’s last name, “Arbogast”, and then we go through the metal detector. Place your shoes and any items you are taking in on the conveyer belt.
- We wait on the ramp until 10 or more people are lined up. Staff come and go, but we wait until the staff assigned to take the visitors in comes down the ramp.
- They will shine a flashlight on our hand to make sure we have the stamp, and then we’ll go into the “control room”. The gate shuts behind us, and another one opens in front of us. We go through and line up on the right, by the door to the visiting room. The guard opens the door and lets us in.
- Jabari may or may not already be inside. Usually he’s not in the morning, but he is in the afternoon. It’s just timing, it takes about 20 minutes from when they pop his cell door to get to visiting.
- So we find him, or pick a seat and wait for him to get there.
- Depending on the weather and the whim of the officers that day, we can sometimes sit outside.
- When the visit is over, we say goodbye, the inmates leave, and we line up back at the door. They take 10 people at a time back to the lobby. They check your hand stamp again when you leave.
- You can’t share food with an inmate and they can’t approach the vending machines.
- Inmates sit in the gray chairs, we sit in the red ones (I still absentmindedly sit in the wrong one sometimes).
Don’t worry about any of the rules or procedures, I’ll be there to lead the way and remind you of anything you need to know.
In general it’s pretty laid back. I’ve only seen visitors have issues with the guards once or twice, usually over what they are wearing and being told they can’t go in. I’ve never seen any inmate or visitor have any issue with the staff while we are in the visiting room, or have any issue with each other. Everyone is on their best behavior because they are grateful to have visits. Many people who come to visit are regulars and know the staff and joke with them.
If you have any questions or concerns please ask!