Dallas Jail—Tips on Visiting Lew Sterrett

—After you visit, please email us your tips and update this information. Send to info@texasjailproject.org Your tips can make it easier for other people who are new to this. 

Where is The Dallas County Jail? It is is located at  111 Commerce Street, Dallas, Texas and it is named the Lew Sterrett Justice Center. Bus Stop: Dart bus route 35

The different sections there:

  • North Tower Detention Center
  • West Tower Detention Center
  • Suzanne L. Kays Detention Center (South Tower)

—The line outside is for south tower. For the north tower line, you gotta go inside the building, where all the lobby windows are for bonds and inmate property retrieval and another line . There is a line starting at about 6pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays even though visitation processing doesn’t start till 7pm.

Also there is the George Allen Jail, at 600 Commerce Street Dallas, Texas 75202,and the Bill Decker Detention Center, 899 North Stemmons Fwy Dallas, Texas 75202.,

How do I find someone in the Dallas Jail?

—The kiosks in the lobbies for depositing funds can also be used to get your inmates number and location if you don’t already have it.

http://www.dallascounty.org/jaillookup/

“Asking questions is important and if you can’t get an answer speak to a supervisor. We can’t help our loved ones if we are not informed, so ask, ask and ask those questions.”

Official Visitation Rules

Check their website page for days and times when you can visit your inmate! There is no visitation at all on Wednesdays.

2012 Tips on Visitation: 
Always arrive AT LEAST 30 minutes before the end of visitation or you will not get to visit! I have arrived to visit with 45-50 remaining minutes only to hear that they are not processing any more visitors. (thanks to KG, September 2010)

Another very important item is I have been visiting my son for 9 months I have to help several elderly people who get lost and speak no english as well as younger hispanics. They really need to have someone with them who speaks english like I said some are lazy. i have not once seen a spanish speaking person at any of the check in areas.

Parking: There is a parking lot next to the jail. Currently it costs $4 to park your car. Lock your car when you leave it.

Entering Lew Sterrett: Walk up the long ramp into the courtyard. Look for a glassed-in walkway. The entrance is at the end of that walkway and the name of the jail is above it. Beyond the glass door is a metal detector and x-ray machine. In front of you will be the bail bond windows. To the left is the information officer.

Warning: There are sometimes people begging for money outside the jail.

Visiting: Inmates may have only two visits a week. Your name has to be on their visitor’s list or you can’t visit.  If you are the only person on their approved visitor list, you may visit twice a week.If they have more than one person listed on the approved visitor list, then you can only visit them once a week.

The time limit for a visit is about 30 minutes. Be sure to plan ahead.

A mom told us the following in 2013: ” I have been visiting my son for 9 months & have had to help several elderly people who get lost and speak no english as well as some younger hispanics. The jail really needs to have someone with them who speaks English but I have not once seen a spanish speaking person at any of the check in areas.”

To get to the visitor area (starting at the x-ray machine at the entrance), take the hall to the left. Go to the end, turn right, walk down that hall and then turn right. There will be a set of double doors on your left. Enter that hallway.

If you are with someone who is visiting an inmate but you are not, be aware: there is no place inside to wait if you are not going to visit.

There will be two cash machines on the left for transferring cash to the prisoners (it takes all size bills), and at the end there will be a desk and several police officers. Ask for the slip of paper to request a visit.

Once you have that, write down the information about the inmate (their number and location), hand it back to the officer, then go to the waiting line (on the left, against the wall) and be prepared to stand and wait. You will pass through a metal detector again. Follow the corridor around two corners until you come to an elevator. Take the elevator to the floor where your inmate is housed.

On each floor is a window to the left of the elevator that is the guard station. Present your visitor slip and your ID. You will be directed to a booth where you can talk to the inmate. Each of these “booths” have “phones”. You sit on one side of a glass window and the inmate sits on the other side and you talk via phone.

You will have to walk through several metal detectors. Anything you have with you may be searched or x-rayed. Here is what you should take in:

  • your identification **
  • car keys (if you drive)
  • one piece of paper (NOT a notebook with wires or staples)
  • a small pencil
  • money, if you are trying to pay a bond or get money to an inmate’s jail account
  • a piece of paper with the inmate’s name and number and where they are being housed

Leave everything else at home (particularly jewelry or clothing with metal in it.)

**Valid forms of identification

  • Valid picture state drivers license (paper license renewal must be accompanied by other picture identification)
  • Texas Department of Public Safety Picture Identification Card
  • Identification Card issued by the Dallas County Jail
  • Official government passport
  • Alien registration card or any other valid picture identification card from the US Government

Problem Areas: Their computer system is inefficient and crashes frequently (as of summer, 2009), the rules are not clearly stated, and issues like getting medication to family members are poorly handled.

Before you go, you will need to know your family member’s inmate number and where they are being housed. You can find out this information here. If you have been told someone is an inmate in Lew Sterrett and has not been released, but the web page doesn’t pull up information, they are probably in “Holding.” It can take up to five days to move from Holding to the Jail. The average time in Holding seems to be about 24 hours.

Medication: The worst possible situation is where an inmate needs their regular prescription medication. They will not allow you to bring the inmate’s prescription medication to Lew Sterrett (although other jails will allow you to bring them for the inmate.) The inmate must wait for the jail’s physician to confirm their condition and prescribe a medication. It may take more than a week for someone with chronic depression to be seen by the doctor.

Inmates must buy their own medication; the Jpay account is used for this.

Posting a bond: The Lew Sterrett computer system is inefficient and the workspace is not well laid out. It can take up to 20 minutes to post a bond once you reach the window. If there’s a long line at the bail bonds windows, be prepared to wait for more than an hour. The best time to try and post a bond is 8-8:30 in the morning. Bring cash or a cashier’s check. When you receive the bond paperwork, be sure to read the document VERY CAREFULLY. It will spell out certain things that have to be met to get your money back.

Phone calls: There is no way to call into the jail to talk to an inmate. They can call you collect OR you can deposit money into an account.
Jpay is no longer used for inmate phone calls or for commissary accounts. This has been replaced by V-connect ( http://www.myvconnect.com/ ) for pre-paid collect calls from the jail facility and by Access Corrections (https://www.accesscorrections.com/) for commissary funds.

Inmate Mail: Inmates may receive mail. Be sure to address exactly right or it won’t get to your inmate. Mail should be addressed as such:

Inmates Name (ie: John Doe #05123456)
Inmate’s Location (ie: Tank #11 S 14)
P.O. Box # 660334
Dallas, Texas 75266-0334

Tips contributed by Jackie, new volunteer in Dallas, 2012

1. You are not allowed to wear flips flops or open toes shoes at all; they have been making announcements this week they will enforce it.

2. Knee length shorts and skirts means they have to be BELOW the knee. Not at knee or mid knee below. Goes for men too.

3.  If you are wearing a sleeveless shirt with a jacket over it they won’t allow it. The shirt itself has to be appropriate. If you are wearing a see thru shirt with a tank top underneath they won’t allow it. Anything that is see-thru pretty much won’t be allowed. Doesn’t matter if what’s underneath is pretty well covered. You won’t be allowed in.

4. The guards will say: “You you can close the door to the visitation booth, I don’t care what you do!”   DON’T listen. Leave the chair in the door to keep it propped open. They say that because they really don’t care, but your visit will be over if you close your door.

 Other tips from volunteer Mel White, about clothing and children visiting:
  • A family member emailed that you will be sent away if you wear shorts or dresses above the knee. No sleeveless tops are allowed either. It is so heartbreaking to watch people wait 2 hours in line after paying $4 to park only to be sent home without seeing their loved one for this dress code infraction that is not even posted anywhere she could see.
  • Check on when children can visit because one person said they could only visit on the weekend.

*We found this list on the official website but I think it can vary according to the guard so be careful what you wear!

“No visitor allowed who is wearing:Transparent  Clothing, Seductive Clothing, Tube Tops, Halter Tops, Strapless Tops, Backless Tops, Spaghetti Straps, Shorts must be at knee length Skirts must be at knee length. Visitors who are inappropriately dressed with gang related clothing, hairstyles or graffiti will be denied visits.”