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Arrest of a U.S. Citizen

One of the highest priorities of the Department of State and U.S. embassies and consulates abroad is to provide assistance to U.S. citizens incarcerated abroad. The Department of State is committed to ensuring fair and humane treatment for U.S. citizens imprisoned overseas. We stand ready to assist incarcerated citizens and their families within the limits of our authority in accordance with international, domestic, and foreign law.

Tips to avoid arrest overseas:

  • Understand that you are subject to the local laws and regulations while visiting or living in the country – follow them.
  • Learn which laws might be different from the laws in the United States. We provide some information for each country on our Country Information pages. For more information on a specific country’s laws, contact that country’s nearest embassy or consulate in the United States before you travel.

In case of an arrest overseas:

  • Ask the prison authorities to notify the U.S. embassy or consulate
  • You may also wish to reach out to the closest U.S. embassy or consulate to let us know of arrest.

Consular Assistance to U.S. Prisoners:

When a U.S. citizen is arrested overseas, he or she may be initially confused and disoriented. They may be in unfamiliar surroundings and may not know the local language, customs, or legal system.

 We can:

  • Provide a list of local attorneys who speak English
  • Contact family, friends, or employers of the detained U.S. citizen (with their written permission)
  • Visit the detained U.S. citizen regularly and provide reading materials and vitamin supplements, where appropriate
  • Ensure that prison officials are providing appropriate medical care
  • Provide a general overview of the local criminal justice process
  • Ensure that prison officials permit visits with a member of the clergy of the religion of the detainee’s choice.
  • Establish an OCS Trust, if necessary, so friends and family can transfer funds to imprisoned U.S. citizens

We cannot:

  • Get U.S. citizens out of jail
  • State to a court that anyone is guilty or innocent
  • Provide legal advice or represent U.S. citizens in court
  • Serve as official interpreters or translators
  • Pay legal, medical, or other fees

Prison Visits for Families and Friends

Can family and friends visit prisoners? How can I arrange a visit?

  • The prison complex has three subunits: Central, Public, and Women’s Prison.
  • Central Prison allows walk-in visitors once bi-weekly, Women’s and Public once a week.
  • The day of the walk-in visit depends on the subunit’s block where the prisoner resides.
  • Prisoners needs to call their families to provide visiting schedules details. If prisoners cannot contact family, the Embassy may relay the information.
  • Visits take place from 8:00 am to 12:00 pm.
  • No more than three visitors per prisoner are allowed at one time.
  • Visitors are separated from the prisoner by a glass barrier during the visit and they communicate via telephone.
  • Usually, only family and lawyers can visit prisoners.
  • Prisoners may request approval for a visit by a friend through the prison social worker.
  • Prisoner are entitled to one private face-to-face visit per month from family, subject to good behavior.
  • Visitors must bring a government-issued photo ID (e.g., Civil ID/passport).
  • IDs are held by the prison and returned at the end of the visit.
  • Visitors will be body searched before entering the prison.
  • Visitors are not allowed to wear watches, jewelry, belts, or to take in bags/handbags.
  • All bags and parcels will be searched before entry and authorities have the right to withhold items that they deem to be unacceptable (e.g., food, potential weapons, pictures/images that are deemed to be indecent).
  • Visitors may bring money for the prisoner’s use in the prison commissary.
  • No more than KWD 80 may be provided at one time once every two weeks.
  • Any other items that visitors wish to bring to the prisoner, including books, letters, pictures, games, etc., must be approved by prison officials the day of the visit.