A conjugal visit is a programmed extended visit given to prison inmates to spend several hours in private usually with a legal spouse. The parties may engage in sexual intercourse. In United States, one has to meet certain requirements to qualify for this privilege, for example, no violation of the rules in the last six months, history of good behavior and so on. Those imprisoned in maximum and medium security facilities and those on death row are not permitted conjugal visits. Though there are such limitations this essay seeks to outline the merits and demerits of conjugal visits. It also explains the benefits of the same to the state and individuals (Calderon, 2006).
Conjugal visits and private meetings for inmates
To start with, conjugal visits are very important to inmates and their families. Though a lot of cultural beliefs may be identified and used to stop this privilege from been offered, it is vital for it to be given a chance. They have been identified to preserve the family bonds and increase the chances of success for a prisoner and eventual to life outside the prison. The conjugal visits can be used as incentives that is, for motivating the inmates to strongly comply with the day to day rules in the prisons. Hence, the inmates consciously avoid acts that may deny them a chance for conjugal visits. Research has shown that there is reduced sexual violence between inmates in the states that have been able to establish conjugal visit programs (Vacheret, 2005).
Marriage and fatherhood has been said to have a stabilizing effect, even to the point of reducing anti social behavior. They can go to an extent of reducing consumption of drugs and alcohol which are often tied to offending. The conjugal visits can help rebuild family ties and consequently give the inmates better relations when they complete their sentences. It may also act as a time of family rebuilding for some as others leave disintegrated families before imprisonments. Conjugal visits helps the inmates easily reintegrate into the society after the completion of their sentence. It also acts as a baseline for the family to give the inmate support for rehabilitation when they leave prison.
Though there are many ways to explain the benefits of the conjugal visits for prison inmates, the demerits side also holds water in that there are many reasons that can be used against the establishment and introduction of conjugal visits. Conjugal visits only recognize and are beneficial to already functional families and over looks the dysfunctional families. Majority of these programs put emphasis on the sexual aspects of a relationship than promoting healthy families emotionally like when families are involved in communal visitation. In addition they only recognize legal families between heterosexuals; hence non traditional family support which has become more common is not recognized. This in itself opens the administrators to claims of having discriminated. The conjugal visits instead of promoting family bonding may lead to increased risk of physical safety of family members in some cases due to supervision. Research has shown that male perpetrators of family violence are predisposed to commit further violence during conjugal visits (Vacheret, 2005).
Conjugal visits are only a privilege of the married; those who are not married just watch from far; it is not a benefit for all inmates. This can tempt the inmates who are not visited to engage in homosexual behaviors, particularly if they had been visited before but their partners no longer appear. Also, some may not consider it as culturally healthy thing to do; in that it should not be a public issue when they are having sexual affairs with their partners. The inmates may not benefit from it according to the intention of its formation. Shame and fear of the society around them may lead to them not benefiting at all (Calderon, 2006).
Conjugal visitation also increases the risk of spreading sexually transmitted diseases. This population is a high risk identified population, even if the administrators educate them about safe sex, it is hard to ensure adherence to the practices. The administrators are also supposed to provide the legal liabilities fostering sexual interaction among the potentially infected offenders and their partners. Many infected may pay visits and also infected offenders may pass on these diseases; this means increased burden on the tax payer as the government take the burden of treating these diseases. Not to forget conjugal visitations presents an ethical dilemma through increasing pregnancy when the inmates lack the ability to financially and emotional support the partner and the resulting baby. These causes a strain to the economic growth of a nation and child development of these children may be highly affected. The children born out of conjugal visits are denied vital emotional support bonding with their imprisoned parent. For female inmates the prison is expected to finance the medical care of the mother during pregnancy (Wilkinson, 2003).
The high risk nature of promoting conjugal visitation is an expensive program when providing for the necessary security precautions. It presents increased costs to provide adequate space and security to offer such privileges in a dignified manner. The most persuasive argument is that the public may not take it easy to that the taxpayers’ money is being used to offer privileges to inmates. They are justified to ask for reduction of privileges that only benefit the inmates only (Wilkinson, 2003).
As a correction expert, I would strongly refute the introduction of the program that would support prisoners to have completely private meetings with their families. This is because it does more harm health wise than good to the family. It also strains the available resources both to the government and family of the inmates. Considering the demerit of introduction of conjugal visits, it is more evident that they are depriving the nation and tax payers’ resources and nothing much is achieved.
Calderon, M., (2006): Correctional Issues Debate. Retrieved on 31st Dec, 2008 from: http://www.anairhoads.org/calderon/corrissues.shtml
Vacheret, M., (2005): Private Family Visits in Canada, Between Rehabilitation and Stricter Control: Portrait of a System. Retrieved on 31st Dec, 2008 from: http://champpenal.revues.org/document2322.html
Wilkinson, R. A., (2003): The Cost of Conjugal Visitation Outweighs the Benefits. Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. Retrieved on 31st Dec, 2008 from: http://www.drc.state.oh.us/WEB/Articles/article76.htm