Visiting a Loved One in Prison (And on Death Row) in Singapore

Last updated on January 21, 2019

A man's hand holding onto the prison bars.

Visits from family members, friends and loved ones play an important role in the rehabilitation and reintegration of inmates.

For many inmates, these visits can enhance family bonding and help develop positive social support towards their rehabilitative efforts. This will in turn facilitate their eventual re-integration into the community.

This article aims to answer some common questions that family members might have when visiting a loved one who is in prison or on death row. It covers the following:

Who can Visit an Inmate?

Generally, family members and close relatives are allowed to visit the inmate. A close relative/family member is confined to the family line of descent, which means:

  • Grandparents (both paternal and maternal);
  • Parents;
  • Spouse;
  • Siblings; or
  • Children.

For certain categories of inmates, friends who have registered and have been approved by the Prison authorities are also permitted to visit the inmate.

Registration is done via the Singapore Prison Service e-Services Portal. Do note that you are required to login with your SingPass ID to access this platform.

A Visit Card will be issued to the family member whom the inmate has declared as his/her next-of-kin upon admission. Family members who are able to produce the relevant documentary proofs of their relationship (see below) will help speed up and facilitate the administration process for visitation requests.

This Visit Card must be produced at every visit session. For family members who have forgotten or lost their Visit Card, they are still able to visit an inmate. They will need to report the loss to the visit officers at the Prison Link Centres or the institutions, and a replacement Visit Card will be issued.

Do note that each inmate is only entitled to 1 Visit Card. Requests for 2 Visit Cards can only be made strictly under exceptional circumstances, and subject to approval by the Prison authorities.

Non-family members who wish to visit an inmate need to make a visitation request through the main Visit Card holder. The Visit Card holder will need to complete an ‘Application Form for Request to Visit an Inmate’ at the Changi Prison Link Centre.

There is no minimum age imposed on visitors who wish to visit a loved one in prison.

Are There Any Documents that I am Required to Bring for a Visit Session?

You are required to bring along your:

  • Visit Card (issued to the family whom the inmate has declared as his/her next-of-kin);
  • NRIC or passport and/or Work Permit; and
  • Letters of identity (if any).

Birth certificates and Marriage Certificates are also required for relationship verification purposes during the first registration. For a comprehensive list of the types of documents to be produced by each family member, please click here.

Where will the Visit Session be Held?

Visit sessions are held in visiting cubicles. However, a prisoner who has completed 4 years of his sentence and has displayed excellent conduct may be authorised by the Superintendent to receive visitors in a visiting room.

A prison officer will supervise this visiting room.

Can I Arrange for a Tele-Visit Instead of a Face-to-Face Visit?

Tele-visits allow loved ones and friends to see and talk to an inmate through television via tele-conferencing technology, which can be more convenient and cost-effective.

Tele-visits can be arranged from Mondays to Saturdays, subject to availability of slots and other factors. It is a more convenient option over face-to-face visits which are limited to a fixed day of the week (e.g. visits to inmates housed in Institution A1 of the Changi Prison Complex are arranged every Monday).

There are 8 tele-visit centres located island-wide for the convenience of family members and relatives. The addresses and contact details of the tele-visit centres are available here.

How Often can I Visit My Loved One, and How Many Visitors are Permitted for Each Visit?

In general, you are able to do a face-to-face visit either once or twice every month.

Prisoners who are in remand (detained in prison until a later date when a trial or sentencing hearing will take place) are allowed to be visited every weekday.

Most inmates are allowed to be visited by a maximum of 3 visitors in a visit session. The Visit Card holder must accompany additional visitors, who would need to register (see above) and be approved by the Prison authorities.

According to section 127(2) of the Prison Regulations, an inmate is only allowed to receive a visit from relatives or friends 1 month after his or her admission to prison.

Family members may choose to opt for 2 tele-visits a month, as most categories of inmates can be visited twice a month, out of which at most 1 face-to-face visit is allowed.

For prisoners who are in remand, they are only allowed tele-visits during the initial phase. After this, face-to-face visits are allowed up to 2 times a week. Subsequent visits in the same week have to be through tele-visits.

Family members should note that the frequencies could vary depending on the the category of inmate. It is always best to verify this with the visit officer on the number of visits allowed.

Can I Send or Receive Letters from My Loved One?

You are able to send standard correspondence materials such as:

  • Letters;
  • Greeting cards; and
  • Postcards.

However, these materials are subject to screening and approval from the Prison authorities. Non-standard correspondence materials will not be allowed. These include materials that are:

  • Musical,
  • Perfumed,
  • pop-up,
  • Irregular-shaped,
  • Very large in size;
  • Have a glossy surface; or
  • Are pasted with stickers or printed with personal photographs.

An inmate is allowed to write and receive 1 letter every month. If an inmate’s relatives or friends live far away and it is inconvenient for them to visit (despite them being allowed to do so), the inmate is allowed to write and receive an additional letter in lieu of a visit.

A prisoner who has completed 4 years of his sentence and has displayed excellent conduct may be authorised by the Superintendent to write and receive unrestricted number of letters.

What Items am I Allowed to Bring with Me when Visiting an Inmate?

You are only allowed to bring approved items (either brought in or purchased from the Prison for the inmate during the visit). A list of approved items is available at the Visit Office of the Institution for your reference.

For common items including:

  • Reading materials;
  • Spectacles;
  • Medication;
  • Hearing aids; and
  • Dentures,

family members need to seek approval by the Prison authorities before these items can be passed to the inmates. Further details on the relevant procedures for obtaining approval to bring in these items are available here.

Do note that visitors are not allowed to bring food for inmates throughout the year.

Can My Loved One Visit a Family Member in Hospital?

Compassionate leave allows an inmate to:

  • Visit a family member or close relative who is gravely ill either at home, in hospital or any other place in Singapore;
  • Attend the last rites/funeral of a close relative.

If you wish to apply for compassionate leave on the inmate’s behalf, you may proceed to the Changi Prison Link Centre during office hours (Mondays to Saturdays from 8am to 4.30pm).

Please note that you are also required to bring the following documents to process your application:

  • Original NRIC of applicant;
  • Original documents proving relationship between inmate and family member who has passed away or is certified to be dangerously ill; and
  • Original copy of the death certificate or medical memo.

How can I Know the Release Date of My Loved One?

As the Prison authorities do not disclose confidential inmate information, family members should ask the inmate personally for such information during their visit.

For Family Members of Inmates on Death Row

When would we receive the notice of execution?

As death sentences in Singapore are usually carried out on Fridays, families of death row inmates may be given the notice of execution on the Monday of that week.

Is it possible to receive an extension of visit time when visiting an inmate on death row?

Generally, the family of an inmate on death row is allowed to visit the inmate more frequently and for an extended period of time at each visit after receiving the notice of execution.

The Prison authorities will do their best to facilitate requests from the inmate and his or her family as much as possible.

However, physical contact is not allowed to ensure the safety and security of the inmate.

What other arrangements are available for the family members?

Family members of inmates awaiting execution have access to a private room at the Changi Prison Link Centre. They are able to use the room from the eve of the execution itself, and trained counsellors will be on hand to provide emotional support and assistance should they require it.

It is understandable for friends and family members to experience stress or anxiety at the thought of visiting a loved one who is in prison or on death row.

Nevertheless, we hope you can alleviate these fears and concerns by understanding what to expect when visiting an inmate and being prepared for the procedures involved in arranging for a visit.

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