Although prisoners are locked away to keep them out of normal society, they are still allowed limited communication with the outside world. The amount of contact they have is often dependent on what type of crime they have committed. Inmates at minimum security prisons who did not utilize any form of threats of violence will sometimes have internet access. While not every inmate will be given this privilege, they do have other ways to stay connected to society.
Written correspondence is the most common form of communication between inmates and free citizens. In fact, many experts who study imprisonment believe that a regular exchange of letters is greatly beneficial for prisoners, especially when it is with friends or family members. It is thought to provide a link between their current and former lives and will give them a desire to get out as quickly as possible and never return. There are also several organizations that help prisoners find pen pals in the United States and internationally. Inmates often turn to these services to create friendships, seek legal counsel, and even create romantic relationships.
Many prisons authorize friends and relatives to visit inmates, either in a single common room or in a contained area where people communicate through a thick sheet of Plexiglas, usually by using a telephone handset. In most cases, no form of physical contact is allowed. Every prison has their own rules about how visitation plan works, including days and times that visitors are accepted, how many people may visit an inmate at one time and how frequently each prisoner will be allowed to have guests. People who are interested in visiting a convict must follow all of the guidelines that the penitentiary has in place, bring proper identification and be prepared to be searched by guards upon entering the facility.
Conjugal visits are the most advanced form of contact any prisoner may have with the outside world. This is a privilege that gives an inmate several hours or even days in private with their visitor. Most of the time inmates must be married to receive this type of visit, but there are exceptions. There are currently only a few states that allow this type of visitation.