Child Visitation Program

Photo of wall painting in a child visitaiton area.  Painting has trees, tiger, owls, bubble bees, flowers, and a sign that says Hundred Acre Woods.
Photo of child visitation area with child tables and chairs, rug, kitchen play set, books, and building blocks.

The Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) operates one of the few overnight child visitation programs, allowing eligible female offenders to spend two weekends a month with their children or grandchildren between the ages of three months and 10 years old.

Currently available at the Debra K. Johnson Rehabilitation Center (DJRC) and the Women’s Therapeutic Residential Center (WTRC), the child visitation program places an emphasis on family reunification and allows incarcerated women the ability to maintain a bond with their children or grandchildren. Each facility has a dedicated space separate from the rest of the compound that has been retrofitted with colorful paintings, a play area, a kitchen, and special rooms to accommodate each family. 

Visits are held every other weekend, beginning at 5:00 p.m. on Fridays and ending no later than 3:30 p.m. on Sunday. A correctional officer is present in the child visitation area for the duration of the visit.

Child visitation requests must be initiated by the offender at her assigned facility.

To qualify for this program, offenders must:

  • have a custody level of medium or lower.
  • have no class "C" disciplinary offenses for a minimum of 90 days, no class "B" disciplinary offenses for at least six months, and no class "A" disciplinary offenses for at least nine months.
  • complete the parenting course offered at the facility.
  • provide a completed application and an authenticated birth certificate for the visiting child.

Only one child per offender is allowed to visit at a time. Offenders convicted of child abuse or neglect are excluded from this program, unless recommended specifically from the Department of Children's Services or a court order. Grandmothers may also participate in the child visitation program; however, priority will be given to mothers and their children. Offenders are responsible for supervising their children/grandchildren at all times. Any negligence may result in suspension or termination of future visits.

The DJRC child visitation area is dedicated to Penny Bernhardt, who served as warden of the facility from 1972-1980 and 1986-1992, to honor her tremendous contributions to the program’s inception and ongoing success. 

Photo of an overnight child visitation room with bed, book shelf, rug, and big bird on wall.