10 Things You Never Knew about Conjugal Visits

The idea of conjugal visits is not solely an American one. The practice is true in South American countries like Brazil and Western European countries such as Germany. But because of cultural differences, this list will show you that everything is not as it seems when simply thinking about the idea of conjugal visits.

Though the popular media may give you the impression that conjugal visits are as common as family visits for inmates, the truth is the actual practice is very limited in reality. We’re not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, so as you read down the list you should ask yourself how you personally view the modern day of conjugal visits.

1. Conjugal visits is an older term that is not used anymore.

One reason you have seen fewer stories about congeal visits is because the current terminology used is extended family or family reunion visits. It does sound better and far less sexual, as the old term obviously insinuates. These types of visits are intended to include all of the inmate’s family members when possible, instead of just their spouse or partner.

2. The conjugal visit state of origin: Mississippi.

Interestingly, 200 years ago was when the first American conjugal visits took place in Mississippi State Penitentiary, a.k.a. Parchman Farm after the name of the warden James Parchman. His novel idea was aimed at getting the African-American prisoners to work harder, and he thought conjugal visits could be used as a carrot on a stick. But the original visitors were not any relation to the inmates but prostitutes bought and paid for by Warden Parchman every Sunday. After 20 years, the visits were extended to white male prisoners, then finally to female prisoners after another 40 years in 1972.

3. All that’s left now are 4 states that allow conjugal visits.

Those 4 states – California, New York, Connecticut, and Washington – are all state prisons. Federal prisons do not permit the practice. That number of state prisons is down from 17 prisons only 20 years ago. Notice that Mississippi is not on the list. They cancelled their program on February 1, 2014.

4. There are requirements for both inmates and visitors.

Inmates in maximum security prisons are not in the conjugal visit program, and the reason will be evident down the list. Generally, the inmate must have and continue to have a record of good behavior before getting the privilege. They also must have a clean bill of health as determined by the prison infirmary. As for the visitors, they have to pass a background check, and the inmate’s spouse or partner needs to have a cavity search conducted. If the spouse or partner is not on the inmate’s visitor list the conjugal visit will be denied.

5. Toiletries are a part of the visit.

Depending on the location of the prison, a cabin, trailer, or apartment area is provided for the visit. Beyond getting a place to stay and play, the facilities also may provide anything from towels and sheets, to toiletries, condoms, and sexual lubrication. To accommodate family type conjugal visits, a facility may have 2 bedrooms, living room, dining room, DVD player, or television. A state may also allow the inmate to go on shopping trips to buy and prepare home cooked meals at the premises.

6. In India, prisoners have a legal right to bear children.

This actually is not what it seems. A possible result of a conjugal visit is getting pregnant. Only a few years ago the country passed a law that established conjugal visits were a right for married inmates. Where the bearing children issue comes in where according to the same law a male inmate can give their sperm to their spouse for the purposes of artificial insemination. However, in the United States at least one state found this not to be such a good idea. In New Mexico the conjugal visit privilege was taken off of the books in part because there were so many children being born to incarcerated fathers.

7. In Brazil, the conjugal visit policies would be decried as overtly sexist in the United States.

Brazil’s policy is, if you are a straight or gay male you can have visitors for conjugal visits. But women rarely are able to use the privilege, perhaps because the prison cells in Brazil are so lacking in basic sanitation that grading them as unsanitary is being kind. Women who are pregnant when being sent to a Brazilian prison are not likely to get the essential medical care necessary. Conjugal visits seem like a recipe for disaster.

8. In Germany, a convicted murderer took advantage of his conjugal visit to murder again.

Back in 2010, Klaus-Dieter had been locked up for almost 20 years. His crime: the rape and murder of a child. At this time conjugal visits went unsupervised. Klaus-Dieter “met” his girlfriend through writing letters, and for a while the visits went without any problems. Then one day the visit ended with him stabbing her with a steak knife, then strangling her. This was the last straw for the unsupervised visit policy, and Germany tightened both the restrictions on who was permitted the visits and on the supervision of visits.

9. In Saudi Arabia, multiple wives = multiple visits.

This is clearly a cultural thing, but the rule is that each male inmate can have one conjugal visit every month – per spouse. The Saudi government works with the families of the inmates to pick up part of the tab for each visit. That includes travel to and from the prison. While the men are locked up, the Saudi government also helps pay for the spouse’s and children’s rent, food, and education. One source has the annual cost of these expenses to be as much as $35 million.

10. There is no actual proof on whether the visits are successful as part of the rehabilitation process.

Officially, the three primary reasons for allowing conjugal visits are: incentivize good behavior while incarcerated, reducing the possibility of reoffending, and maintaining the family connections. We’re not sure about the conditions is Saudi prisons, but if there nothing like the Brazilian prisons then incentivization may not have that great of an effect. In the United States, with only 4 states currently participating, the practice apparently didn’t show much promise over the long haul.


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