Private Family Visiting

Private Family Visiting Booklet

Cat. No. PS84-1/2004
ISBN 0-662-68196-7

This brochure is for information only. See legislation for legal interpretation.

The Private Family Visit (PFV) was established by the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) to encourage inmates to develop and maintain family and community ties in preparation for their return to the community.

If they meet certain criteria identified in their correctional plan, inmates have the opportunity to use special units within the confines of a correctional institution. Most units are simple two-bedroom structures with a combination kitchen and living area.


The duration and frequency for the use of the private family visit units will normally be up to 72 hours, every two months.


Inmates are eligible for private family visits unless they are:

  • at risk for family violence;
  • participating in unescorted temporary absences for family contact purposes;
  • in a Special Handling Unit, or recommended or approved for a transfer to a Special Handling Unit; or
  • in disciplinary segregation at the time of the scheduled private family visit.

The following visitors are eligible to participate in private family visits:

  • immediate family; or
  • individual with whom the inmate has a close personal relationship, including a common law relationship.

An inmate's Immediate family includes:

  • the inmate's spouse or common-law partner;
  • a child of the inmate or of the inmate's spouse or common-law partner;
  • the father and mother of the inmate or of the inmate's spouse or common-law partner;
  • the spouse or common-law partner of the father or mother of the inmate or of the inmate's spouse or common-law partner;
  • the foster parent of the inmate or of the inmate's spouse or common-law partner; and
  • a child of the inmate's father or mother or a child of the spouse or common-law partner of the inmate's father or mother.

A Common-law partner is a person who, at the time of the inmate's incarceration, had been cohabitating with the inmate in a conjugal relationship for at least one year. Proof of a common-law relationship is the responsibility of the inmate and/or the visitor.


Both visitors and inmates will be made aware of the rules and regulations prior to the commencement of the visits.

When a private family visit is requested, the inmate's file is examined and an assessment is made of any prospective visitor. A parole officer from the community interviews each prospective visitor and makes a recommendation.


It is the responsibility of the visitors to arrive at the institution on time and to provide their own transportation to and from the institution.

The unit will be inspected by an officer at the end of each visit.


Before arriving for a private family visit, visitors are told what constitutes contraband or unauthorized items. Visitors, as well as their personal belongings, will be searched thoroughly. Attempts to smuggle in contraband may result in the inmate losing private family visiting privileges and possible criminal charges against the visitor.

The final decision on all items to be allowed in the unit (such as children's toys) rests with the institutional staff. Unauthorized material will be held for the duration of the visit.
Each unit has a telephone with a direct line to a security control unit in the institution. This allows two-way communication at all times.

During a visit, staff members have regular contact with the inmate and his/her visitors to ensure their security and safety.

At the end of the visit, visitors and their belongings will be searched.


A visit may be ended at any time during the visiting period at the request of either the visitors or the inmate. Institutional staff may also terminate or suspend the visit at any time if it jeopardizes the security and safety of the institution, and/or the safety of an individual; or if it is believed that a criminal offence has been planned or committed. However, the inmate and the visitors will receive written notification of the reasons for any decision that is made, and given an opportunity to present their case.

If found guilty of committing an offence involving a family member during a private family visit, or for introducing contraband materials into the institution through the program, an inmate will have his/her family visits withdrawn for a period specified by the institutional head, reasonable to the nature of the offence.

Family violence is not tolerated by CSC. Certain forms of family violence are criminal acts and will be treated as such. Other forms of family violence that are suspected or occur during a visit will be reported according to various provincial statutes.

The infractions described above may also lead to criminal charges. The unit will be visited daily by a correctional officer and be logged. The purpose of these visits is to:

  • ensure the presence and well-being of the visitors;
  • monitor care of visiting facilities;
  • offer assistance if problems such as with the facility, supplies, etc. are being encountered; and
  • facilitate requests for presence of other staff such as Chaplain.


A follow-up interview with the visitors will be conducted by an officer. The objective is to identify any unusual incidents which may have occurred during a visit and to assess any changes in and/or benefits to the inmate participating in the PFV.


For further information about the private family visit, consult the following: