Can Prisoners Temporarily Leave Prison for a Funeral?


Funerals are a time to grieve a lost loved one and come together as family and friends to mourn. It can be difficult to come to terms with a loss, especially for those who can’t attend the funeral. So, some people wonder about the allowances for incarcerated individuals.

Prisoners can temporarily leave prison for a funeral service if they are eligible for furlough. It is possible for prisoners who have a close relationship with the deceased person to attend as long as the warden does not consider them a threat. 

Let’s talk more about the rules for prisoners attending a funeral for a family member and some restrictions that can get in the way. 

How Can a Prisoner Temporarily Leave Prison for a Funeral?

A prisoner can temporarily leave prison by applying for a temporary furlough for the funeral of a loved one under specific circumstances. The warden will then determine the risk involved in the request and either approve or deny it based on that risk. 

Let’s talk more about requesting a furlough for a funeral and how prisoners can ensure they can attend. 

Wardens Are Responsible for Their Decisions

The biggest reason inmates are unable to get approval for any type of furlough is that the responsibility falls on the prison. If the warden releases an inmate who later commits a crime, the prison has to take responsibility. So, the warden must consider the risk carefully before making a decision. 

If a prisoner commits a crime during a furlough for a funeral, the individual has to take responsibility for their actions. However, allowing the furlough of such an individual will reflect negatively on the warden. This can cause their bosses to question their decision-making, especially if it happens more than once. 

Because of the risk, wardens often consider the prisoner’s crime. Drug-related charges can bring into question the risk of a prisoner attempting to use drugs during their release. Violent criminals pose a risk of recidivism when around other people before their sentence is complete. 

Guards Aren’t Always Necessary

When choosing to release prisoners for a funeral service, a warden may determine that the prisoner does not require an escort. This is a rare occurrence, raising the risk of recidivism and possible escape. However, it can happen for some nonviolent offenders. 

If the warden determines that a prisoner does not require an escort for a funeral service, it can save the inmate and their family money as the cost falls on them. However, there is always a risk that the prisoner may attempt to commit a crime or even escape. 

The warden may also consider several factors, such as criminal history, absence of active warrants, and several other eligibility criteria, to determine which inmates to grant an unsupervised furlough.

Inmate and Family Must Cover Costs

One of the biggest obstacles to allowing a release for a funeral is the cost. The inmate is responsible for the cost of their release. They can get help from their family to cover the cost, but they are ultimately accountable. If the prisoner cannot cover the expenses, the warden will not allow them to leave. 

Costs of furlough for inmates can get expensive, especially if the warden requires a guard to escort the prisoner. 

White funeral flowers arrangement in the snow on a hedge at the cemetery before a casket

What Expenses Does the Inmate Face for Temporary Funeral Furlough?

The inmate or their family must cover the cost of staffing, food, testing, and transportation for the funeral furlough. If the inmate cannot pay these expenses, they will not be able to attend the funeral. 

As discussed above, expenses are one of the biggest obstacles for prisoners. Not only do they have to pay for their furlough, but they have to settle the costs ahead of time. So, some prisoners who may otherwise be able to attend the funeral may have to miss it due to costs. 

Below are some of the costs inmates and their families have to shoulder upon the approval of their furlough application due to a funeral:

Testing

Prisons require a urinalysis for all inmates whom they grant a furlough regardless of the furlough’s duration or the inmate’s history. 

Whenever a warden allows a prisoner to attend a funeral, the prisoner must face testing when they return to the prison. The cost of testing is solely the responsibility of the inmate to cover. 

Since every inmate has to undergo a urinalysis upon returning, they must pay the cost of the test before leaving. Urine testing costs vary depending on the laboratories receiving the samples and the amount of testing required. 

Statistics show that drug offenses rank high among other crimes in terms of the likelihood of recidivism. If the initial test result comes back positive for narcotics or any illegal drug use, the inmate will face further costs as they will have to test the urine further. 

Staffing

Another important factor when it comes to the cost of allowing the temporary release of inmates is staffing. As discussed above, the warden may occasionally decide that the inmate can attend the funeral service without a guard present, but this is rare. In most cases, the warden will require an escort for the prisoner to ensure they do not escape or commit a crime. 

Providing a guard for the inmate to attend a funeral means that there will be fewer guards at the prison. So, they will need extra staff on that day to account for the guard being absent. Because all expenses fall on the inmates on furlough, they need to pay an administrative fee for this. 

Food

One factor that many people may not think to consider as part of the price of being out of prison for a day is food. Food is costly, especially for inmates who have become accustomed to three meals a day. During their furlough, the inmate must pay for any food necessary while they are out. 

While this may not seem like a significant cost, it is no secret that food costs have risen steadily over the last decade. Inmates can make money in prison, but they only earn an average of 63 cents per hour of work. So, food costs that may seem insignificant to ordinary workers are quite expensive for inmates. 

Travel

Travel is another expense that people can forget to factor into the overall cost of furlough. The prison is not responsible for ensuring that inmates get to the funeral service. As such, inmates will need to pay for any transportation costs to get to the funeral venue.

While family members can pick them up and bring them to the service, this is not always an option for some inmates. Travel costs can be significant for inmates who don’t have access to a vehicle. 

Moreover, many state prisons make inmates agree beforehand that they will not drive or operate any vehicle without formal written permission from designated authorities.

Car services like taxis, Uber, or Lyft can make this process easier for inmates, but the cost of these services is not always achievable. This is especially a problem for inmates who want to attend a funeral service that is far from the prison. 

What Are The Rules for Prisoners Who Attend a Funeral?

Some rules for prisoners who attend a funeral include the prisoners being in handcuffs and prison clothes during the funeral. If the warden deems guards necessary, then inmates will remain under constant supervision during the service. The guards will transport the inmate to the service as well. 

Let’s go into more detail about these rules for inmates who are able to attend a family funeral. 

Supervision

The most important rule for prisoners who are able to attend a funeral is supervision. We already discussed the use of guards to escort the prisoner and ensure they return to prison without issues. But there is more to the supervision of inmates than just guards. 

Prisoners remain handcuffed throughout the funeral service, limiting contact with family and friends who are present. The guards will cuff the inmate’s hands, waist, and ankles to ensure they can’t attempt to escape from the guards and return to the prison safely. The cuffs limit the inmate’s movement, only allowing for awkward hugs. 

Clothing

The proper attire for a funeral is a common concern among first-time funeral attendees, but it is even more complicated for inmates. Inmates who have been in prison for a while often have a hard time adjusting to the customs and traditions of people on the outside. And funeral attire is not something they usually have to consider. 

According to first-hand experience from a former inmate, wardens require them to wear their prison clothing to the service. Inmates will not be able to change into nice clothes for the service, forcing them to stand out among friends and family in attendance. 

Wardens and prison officials require this in order to set the inmate apart from everyone else in attendance and make them easy to spot in a crowd. The cuffs and attire make it difficult for the inmate to escape from the guards successfully. 

While wearing prison clothes may seem unnecessary given that the inmates cannot run away freely with cuffs on their hands and feet, it helps the guards ensure that they can return the inmate to the prison safely and avoid any complications.

Guard Transportation

We discussed the rules for transportation above. However, if the inmate’s prison furlough requires guards, the prison will transport the inmate to the service. The vehicle will be armored and will undoubtedly stand out wherever it goes. So, nothing about a prisoner attending a funeral will be subtle. 

The inmate will arrive in a prison van that guards often use to transport prisoners from one location to another. So, unless the warden gives the inmate the ability to go to the funeral without an escort, they will arrive in a prison van. 

Victim Notification

If a warden decides to release a prisoner for a funeral furlough, they must alert the victims or their families of the decision. For inmates who committed crimes with no direct victim, this doesn’t apply. However, if there are one or multiple victims, the warden must notify them of the furlough, including the duration and location.

This allows the victim time to prepare for the furlough if they want to make sure they don’t see the inmate, and it also prepares the victim in case the inmate escapes custody. This is especially helpful if the victim were to attend the funeral as well. 

Rather than have the prisoner unexpectedly show up, this process allows the warden to give a proper warning to the victim and allow them to adjust their plans. It will also significantly prevent risks of criminal relapse for some inmates with a history of violent crimes.

Can Prisoners Temporarily Leave Prison For A Dying Loved One?

Prisoners can temporarily leave prison for dying loved ones. However, most often, they have to choose whether to apply for a furlough for a bedside visit or funeral attendance.

Unexpected deaths are difficult for families to deal with, but sometimes they get a warning when their loved one is passing soon. In this case, wardens may allow inmates to visit a dying loved one if they may pass soon. There are restrictions on who the inmate can visit, requiring it to be a family member they are close to. 

One concern for allowing an inmate to visit a dying loved one is that they will not be able to also attend the funeral of their loved one. This leaves inmates with the difficult choice of visiting their family members one last time or saying goodbye to them at their funeral service. So, inmates will need to consider their options carefully before choosing to visit. 

Final Thoughts

While it is possible for prisoners to temporarily leave prison to attend a funeral, there are many steps they must follow first. If granted furlough, inmates will remain in cuffs throughout the service. They must also remain in their prison attire for the service. 

Funerals can be difficult to plan for as they often happen unexpectedly. Being in prison causes even more of a challenge because inmates have a short time to apply for a furlough and prepare. So, there is no guarantee that an inmate will meet all requirements and attend the funeral. 

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Alex Noel

Hi there! I'm Alex Noel and live in Indianapolis, Indiana. I started this website to share my experience. My goal is to provide Americans a more fulfilling goodbye.

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