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Conjugal Visit Laws by State 2024

California refers to these visits as contact visits. Conjugal visits have had a notorious past recently in the United States , as they were often not allowed to see their family unless it was for brief contact or to speak with them on the phone. Conjugal visits began as a way for an incarcerated partner to spend private time with their domestic partner, spouse, or life partner. Historically, these were granted as a result of mental health as well as some rights that have since been argued in court. For example, cases have gone to the Supreme Court which have been filed as visits being considered privileges instead of rights.

The right to procreate, religious freedom, marital privacy and to abstain from cruel and unusual punishment has been brought up and observed by the court. Of course, married spouses can't procreate if one is incarcerated, and this has been a topic of hot debate in the legal community for years. Although the rules have since been relaxed to allow more private time with one's family, especially to incentivize good behavior and rehabilitation, it is still a controversy within social parameters.

In 1993, only 17 states had conjugal visit programs, which went down to 6 in 2000. By 2015, almost all states had eliminated the need for these programs in favor of more progressive values. California was one of the first to create a program based around contact visits, which allows the inmate time with their family instead of "private time" with their spouses as a means of forced love or procreation.

Washington and Connecticut

Connecticut and Washington have similar programs within their prison systems, referring to conjugal visits as extended family visits. Of course, the focus has been to take the stigma away from conjugal visits as a means of procreation, a short time, and a privilege as a result of good behavior. Extended family visits are much more wholesome and inclusive, giving relatively ample time to connect with one's family, regardless if they have a partner or not. Inmates can see their children, parents, cousins, or anyone who is deemed to have been, and still is, close to the prisoner.

Of course, there are proponents of this system that say this aids rehabilitation in favor of being good role models for their children or younger siblings. Others feel if someone has committed a heinous crime, their rights should be fully stripped away to severely punish their behavior.

On a cheerier note, New York has named its program the "family reunion program", which is an apt name for the state that holds the largest city in America by volume, New York City. NYC's finest have always had their handful of many different issues, including organized crime. The authorities are seeking a larger change in the incarceration system and want to adopt a stance that focuses more on the rehabilitation of the inmate that shows signs of regret, instead of severe punishment for punishment's sake.

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Reckoning with the South

conjugal visits louisiana

This couple wants you to know that conjugal visits are only legal in 4 states

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conjugal visits louisiana

Editor's note: This story was co-written by inside-outside couple Steve Higginbotham and Jordana Rosenfeld, weaving together Jordana's personal experience and reporting with letters from Steve. Together, they examine popular myths around conjugal visits, their decreasing availability, and the punitive logic behind the state's policing of sex and intimacy that stifles relationships like theirs.   Jordana's words appear below in the orange boxes on the right; Steve's are in the purple on the left.

conjugal visits louisiana

The other day, when I told my grandmother I was researching the history of conjugal visits for an essay, she said, "Oh, like in my stories?" 

You can't talk about conjugal visits without talking about television, because television is pretty much the only place where conjugal visits still exist. A wide variety of TV shows either joke about or dramatize conjugal visits, from popular sitcoms that have little to nothing to do with prison life, like The Simpsons , Family Guy , and Seinfeld, to prestige dramas like Prison Break and Oz that purport to offer "gritty" and "realistic" prison tales. Conjugals loom large in public imagination about life in prison, which leaves people under the unfortunate impression that they are in any kind of way widespread or accessible.

Their availability has been in steady decline for more than 25 years. The mid-to-late 1990s are the often-cited high point of conjugal visits , with 17 states offering some kind of program. (Federal and maximum security prisons do not allow conjugals.) This means that at their most widespread, conjugal visits were only ever permitted in one-third of all states. 

There are only four U.S. states that currently allow conjugal visits, often called "extended" or "family" visits: California, Connecticut, New York, and Washington. Some people say Connecticut's program doesn't count though, when it comes to conjugals—and the Connecticut Department of Corrections agrees. Their family visit program is explicitly intended for the benefit of children and requires that the incarcerated person receiving visitors be a parent. Their child must attend . 

My boyfriend has been in prison for 28 years. He was 18 during the high point of conjugal visit programs. That's when the state of Missouri decided to lock him up for the rest of his natural life, effectively sentencing him to a lifetime of deep loneliness and sexual repression, not just because Missouri doesn't offer conjugal visits, but because when you are incarcerated, your body belongs to the state in every possible way—from your labor to your sex life. 

Every prison riot ever could have been prevented with some properly organized fucking.

conjugal visits louisiana

That's my boyfriend, Steve.

Not being able to physically express love—or even lust—builds frustration that boils over in unintended ways. 

Intimacy is policed rigidly in prison, and it has certainly worsened over the years. For most people with incarcerated lovers, intimacy happens not on a conjugal visit, but in the visiting room. Visits now may start and end with a brief embrace and chaste kiss. Open mouth kissing has been outlawed. These rules are enforced with terminated visits and even removing a person from the visiting list for a year or more.

Steve and I have kissed a total of six times.

We have also hugged six times, if you don't count us posing with his arm over my shoulder three times for pictures. The kisses were so brief that I'm not sure I remember what they felt like. He told me later on the phone that he knew he had to be the one to pull away from the kiss before we gave the COs in the bubble reason to intervene because I wouldn't. He knew this, somehow, before he ever kissed me. He was right. 

When I last visited him in Jefferson City Correctional Center, Steve told me about a real conjugal visit from '90s Missouri.

Years ago, people used to mess around in the visiting room at Potosi [Correctional Center]. Everyone knew to keep their sensitive visitors away from a certain area, because there was frequent sex behind a vending machine. I can neither confirm nor deny that cops were paid to turn a blind eye to it. I met a guy recently in my wing at JCCC who said he had heard of me, and that maybe I knew his father. I did know his father. I didn't have the heart to tell him that I probably saw his conception behind a Coke machine back in 1995.

The increasing restriction of physical touch—the expanded video surveillance of visiting spaces, the use of solitary confinement for the smallest infractions, and the withering of both in-person and conjugal visit programs—reflects the punitive logic that consensual human touch is a privilege that incarcerated people do not deserve.

This is an evil proposition, and it's one that is at the core of the ongoing dehumanization of millions of people in U.S. prisons, and the millions of people like me who love them. 

One woman with an incarcerated partner put it to researchers this way: "The prison system appears to be set up to break families up." And she's right. For the duration of his incarceration, I will never be closer to Steve than the state of Missouri is. I'm reminded during each of our timed kisses: His primary partner is the state. 

The most difficult part for me about a romantic relationship with a free woman is that I feel selfish. A lot of self-loathing thoughts creep in. I want the best for her and often question if I am that "best." However, an added benefit is that we can truly take things slowly and explore each other in ways that two free people don't often experience nowadays. We write emails daily. And these are important. We vent. And listen. We continue to build, whereas many free people stop building at consummation. 

But these are the realities rarely captured in media portrayals of romantic relationships between free world and incarcerated partners. Conjugals on TV are so disconnected from what it's actually like to be in a romantic relationship with an incarcerated person: Trying to schedule my life around precious 15 minute phone calls, paying 25 cents to send emails monitored by correctional officers, finding ways to symbolically include Steve in my life, like leaving open the seat next to me at the movies. Instead, television shows depict implausible scenarios of nefarious rendezvous that often parrot law enforcement lies. When they do so, they undermine the public's ability to conceptualize that love and commitment fuel relationships like ours. 

Although contraband typically enters prisons through staff , not visitors , television shows often present conjugal visits as a cover for smuggling, like in the earliest TV plot I could find involving a conjugal visit, from a 1986 Miami Vice episode. After his girlfriend is killed, Tubbs gets depressed enough to agree to go undercover at a state prison to bust some guards selling cocaine. In his briefing on the issue, Tubbs asks how the drugs are getting into the prison. Conjugal visits and family visits are the first two methods named by the prison commissioner, never mind that I have yet to find any evidence that Florida ever allowed those kinds of visits. 

Often, the excuse for policing visits so strictly is that drugs can be exchanged. But I know that lie is used for every type of control in prison. For over a year we had NO CONTACT visits because of the pandemic. During that time, dozens of inmates [at my facility] still overdosed and had drug-related episodes that caused them to need medical attention. Those drugs certainly didn't arrive through visits. They strip search and X-ray me going to and from visits anyway.

Everything in prison now is on camera. When a drug overdose occurs, the investigators track back over footage from visiting room cameras. One officer told me that while they were investigating drugs allegedly passing through the visiting room, they saw a guy covertly fingering his wife. This has happened on more than one occasion, but most guards will have enough of a heart not to bother with violations for some covert touching that wasn't caught until the camera review. Most. Sometimes, a rare asshole will just have to assert his power and write a CDV (conduct violation).

Write-ups or CDVs are given by staff at their discretion. The threat of solitary confinement is always looming in prison. It's another clever way of withholding physical interactions with other human beings as a form of torture. Solitary confinement for anywhere from 10 days to three months is a favorite punishment for "[nonviolent] sexual misconduct. " 

There's also a persistent media narrative that prison systems offer conjugal visit programs out of genuine concern for human welfare. A brief glance at the origins of conjugal visits in the U.S. prison system quickly disproves that theory, showing that conjugal visit programs were conceived as a tool of exploitation and social control. 

Conjugal visits originated in Mississippi at the infamous prison plantation, Mississippi State Penitentiary, or Parchman Farm. Mississippi state officials opened Parchman in the early 1900s, writes historian David Oshinsky in his book Worse than Slavery: Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice, in order to ensnare free Black people into forced labor. Mississippi, like other Southern states during Reconstruction, passed "Black Codes" that assigned harsh criminal penalties to minor "offenses" such as vagrancy, loitering, living with white people, and not carrying proof of employment—behaviors that were not considered criminal when done by white people. Using the crime loophole in the relatively new 13th Amendment, Mississippi charged thousands of Black people with crimes and forced them to work on the state's plantation. 

Parchman officials started offering sex to Black prisoners as a productivity incentive, "because prison officials wanted as much work as possible from their Negro convicts, whom they believed to have greater sexual needs than whites," Oshinsky writes.

"I never saw it, but I heard tell of truckloads of whores bein' sent up from Cleveland at dusk," said a Parchman prison official quoted by Oshinsky. "The cons who had a good day got to get 'em right there between the rows. In my day, we got civilized—put 'em up in little houses and told everybody that them whores was wives. That kept the Baptists off our backs." 

A certain kind of sexual morality has been instilled in the minds of many people with conservative religious upbringings. They naturally force this morality on people they consider children. That is how many guards see prisoners: as children.

Many states did not begin to join Mississippi in offering conjugal visits until much later in the century, when conservative governors like California's Ronald Reagan would determine in 1968 that allowing some married men to have sex with their wives was the best way to reduce " instances of homosexuality " in prisons. 

Abolitionists who wrote the book Queer (In)Justice , consider how concerned prison administrations have historically been and continue to be about queer sex in prisons. The book exposes both the deep fear of the liberatory potential of queer sexuality, and a broader reality that prisons are inherently queer places since prisons' "denial of sexual intimacy and agency is a quintessential queer experience." 

Beyond behavioral control, the rules that determine conjugal visit eligibility are always also about enforcing criminality, since the state decides what kind of charges render someone ineligible to wed or to have an extended visit. Even in the four states that allow these visits, most people with "violent" charges are only allowed to hold their lover's hand and briefly embrace at the beginning and end of visits.

We don't even have enough privacy to masturbate. 

I can be written up if anyone sees my dick, especially in the act of masturbation. I could face solitary confinement, loss of job, visits, religious programs, treatment classes, recreation, canteen spend, and school for getting written up. Conversely, I can be strip-searched at any given time and be forced to show everything.  

Living in this fishbowl has taught me there is no hiding. Too many bored eyes in the same small area to miss anything. Guards may come knocking on the door at any moment. My cellmate is often inches away from me, and it takes coordination to manage time away from each other because we eat, sleep, go to yard, and do just about everything on the same schedule. 

I choose to skip a meal occasionally and embrace the hunger, because it is much less painful than persistent relentless desire. After years of self-release in showers, in a room with snoring cellmates, or as quickly as possible when a brief moment of privacy occurs, my sex drive is all shook up. Current turn-ons could be said to include faucets running and/or snoring men.

Ultimately, this article is not about the right to conjugal visits. It's about the ways that punitive isolation and deprivation of loving physical contact have always been tactics of the U.S. prison system. 

Regardless of the quality of the representations, the prevalence of conjugal visits in movies and TV allows people to avoid thinking too hard about what it's like to be deprived of your sexual autonomy, maybe the rest of your life.

I have been locked up since I was 18, and I am 47 now. To be horny in prison for decades is painful. To the body and soul. 

There is justice as well as pleasure at stake here, and the difference between the two is slight. 

People who love someone in prison live shorter and harder lives. That we do it anyway shows the significance, centrality, and life-affirming nature of intimate relationships to those on both sides of the wall. Maybe it even points to the abolitionist power of romantic and sexual love between incarcerated and "free" people.

So, I guess we start with that thought and work from there to find a way to tear down the system.

conjugal visits louisiana

As part of Scalawag's 3rd annual Abolition Week,  pop justice  is exclusively featuring perspectives from currently and formerly incarcerated folks and systems-impacted folks.

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Come on Barbie, give us nothing!

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Barbie: Pretty Police

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"Pull up your pants or go to jail!"

Related stories:, steve higginbotham & jordana rosenfeld.

Steve Higginbotham is a writer who spent many years narrating and transcribing materials into braille for the Missouri Center for Braille & Narration Production . He is serving a death by incarceration sentence in Jefferson City, Missouri. Jordana Rosenfeld is a journalist in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. More of her work can be found at jordanarosenfeld.com .

conjugal visits louisiana

Controversy and Conjugal Visits

Conjugal visits were first allowed as incentives for the forced labor of incarcerated Black men, the practice expanding from there. Is human touch a right?

An illustration of a bedroom with a prison guard tower through the window

“The words ‘conjugal visit’ seem to have a dirty ring to them for a lot of people,” a man named John Stefanisko wrote for The Bridge, a quarterly at the Connecticut Correctional Institution at Somers, in December 1963 . This observation marked the beginning of a long campaign—far longer, perhaps, than the men at Somers could have anticipated—for conjugal visits in the state of Connecticut, a policy that would grant many incarcerated men the privilege of having sex with their wives. Conjugal visits, the editors of The Bridge wrote, are “a controversial issue, now quite in the spotlight,” thanks to their implementation at Parchman Farm in Mississippi in 1965. But the urgency of the mens’ plea, as chronicled in The Bridge and the Somers Weekly Scene , gives voice to the depth of their deprivation. “Perhaps we’re whistling in the wind,” they wrote, “but if the truth hits home to only a few, we’ll be satisfied.”

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The men at Somers wrote of conjugal visits as something new, but in fact, Parchman had adopted some version of the practice as early as 1918. Parchman, then a lucrative penal plantation , sought to incentivize Black prisoners, who picked and hoed cotton under the surveillance of armed white guards, by allowing them to bring women into their camp. The visits were unofficial, and stories from the decades that followed are varied, ranging from trysts between married couples to tales of sex workers, bussed in on weekends. The men built structures for these visits out of scrap lumber painted red, and the term “ red houses ” remained in use long after the original structures were gone. The policy was mostly limited to Black prisoners because white administrators believed that Black men had stronger sexual urges then white men, and could be made more pliable when those urges were satisfied.

This history set a precedent for conjugal visits as a policy of social control, shaped by prevailing ideas about race, sexual orientation, and gender. Prisoners embraced conjugal visits, and sometimes, the political reasonings behind them, but the writings of the men at Somers suggest a greater longing. Their desire for intimacy, privacy and, most basic of all, touch, reveals the profound lack of human contact in prison, including but also greater than sex itself.

Scholar Elizabeth Harvey paraphrases Aristotle, who described the flesh as the “medium of the tangible,” establishing one’s “sentient border with the world.” Touch is unique among the senses in that it is “dispersed throughout the body” and allows us to experience many sensations at once. Through touch we understand that we are alive. To touch an object is to know that we are separate from that object, but in touching another person, we are able to “form and express bonds” with one another. In this context, Harvey cites the French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty, who described all touch as an exchange. “To touch is also always to be touched,” she writes.

An illustration from Volume 3, Issue 4 of The Bridge, 1963

When Parchman officially sanctioned conjugal visits in 1965 after the policy was unofficially in place for years, administrators saw it as an incentive for obedience, but also a solution to what was sometimes called the “ Sex Problem ,” a euphemism for prison rape . Criminologists of the era viewed rape in prison as a symptom of the larger “ problem of homosexuality ,” arguing that the physical deprivations of prison turned men into sexual deviants—i.e., men who wanted to have sex with other men. In this context, conjugal visits were meant to remind men of their natural roles, not merely as practitioners of “ normal sexuality ,” but as husbands. (Framing prison rape as a problem of ‘homosexuals’ was commonplace until Wilbert Rideau’s Angolite exposé Prison: The Sexual Jungle revealed the predation for what it was in 1979.)

Officials at Parchman, the sociologist Columbus B. Hopper wrote in 1962 , “consistently praise the conjugal visit as a highly important factor in reducing homosexuality, boosting inmate morale, and… comprising an important factor in preserving marriages.” Thus making the visits, by definition, conjugal, a word so widely associated with sex and prison that one can forget it simply refers to marriage. Men—and at the time, conjugal visits were only available to men—had to be legally married to be eligible for the program.

But for the men at Somers, the best argument for conjugal visitation was obvious—with one telling detail. The privacy afforded by the red houses at Parchman, Richard Brisson wrote “preserve some dignity to the affair,” creating “a feeling of being a part of a regular community rather than … participating in something that could be made to appear unclean.” For lovers secluded in bedrooms, “[t]here is no one about to mock them or to embarrass them,” he wrote. This observation suggests the ubiquity of surveillance in prison, as well as its character.

Carceral institutions are intended to operate at a bureaucratic remove; prisoners are referred to by number and were counted as “ bodies .” Guards must act as ambivalent custodians of these bodies, even when the nature of their job can be quite intimate. Prisoners are routinely strip-searched and frisked; they must ask permission to exercise any movement, to perform any bodily function. This is as true today as it was in Somers, where men frequently complained that they were treated like children. “You are constantly supervised, just as if you were a one-year-old child,” Ray Bosworth wrote in 1970 .

But guards are not parents, and the tension between dutiful ambivalence and intimate supervision often manifests as disgust. On a recent visit to Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, a maximum-security women’s prison in upstate New York, prisoners complained of being ridiculed during strip searches, and hearing guards discussing their bodies in the corridors.

Sad young woman and her husband sitting in prison visiting room.

This attitude extends to rules regulating touch between prisoners and visitors. Writing about San Quentin State Prison in California in the early 2000s, the ethnographer Megan L. Comfort described a common hierarchy of visits , each with its own allowable “degree of bodily contact.” Death Row cage visits allowed for hugs in greeting and parting, while a contact visit allowed for a hug and a kiss. The nature of the kiss, however, was subject to the discretion of individual guards. “We are allowed to kiss members of our families, hello and goodbye, but the amount of affection we may show is limited by the guard,” James Abney wrote for the Somers Weekly Scene in 1971.  “If he feels, for instance that a man is kissing his wife too much or too passionately, then he may be reprimanded for it or the visit may be ended on the spot.”

When Somers held its first “ Operation Dialogue ,” a “mediated discussion” among prisoners and staff in May 1971, conjugal visits were a primary concern. By then, California (under Governor Ronald Reagan) had embraced the policy—why hadn’t Connecticut? Administrators argued that furloughs, the practice of allowing prisoners to go home for up to several days, were a preferable alternative. This certainly would seem to be the case. In August 1971, the Scene quoted Connecticut Correction Commissioner John R. Manson, who criticized the skeezy, “tar-paper shacks” at Parchman, concluding that furloughs were “ a less artificial way for inmates to maintain ties with their families .” But to be eligible for furloughs, men were required to be within three or four months of completing their sentence. In the wake of George H.W. Bush’s infamous “ Willie Horton ” campaign ad in 1988, a racially-charged ad meant to stoke fear and anti-Black prejudice in which a violent attack was blamed on Liberal soft-on-crime policies (specifically scapegoating Michael Dukakis for a crime committed on a prison furlough that predated his tenure as governor), prison furloughs were mostly abolished. They remain rare today, still looming in the shadow of the Horton ad.

Conjugal visits are considered a rehabilitative program because, as Abney wrote, it is in “society’s best interest to make sure that [a prisoner’s] family remains intact for him to return to.” Unspoken is the disregard for people serving long sentences, or life, making conjugal visits unavailable to those who might need them the most.

The campaign for conjugal visits continued throughout the 1970s. Then, in 1980, in a sudden and “major policy reversal ,” the state of Connecticut announced that it would instate a “conjugal and family visit” program at several prisons, including Somers. Subsequent issues of the Scene outline the myriad rules for application, noting that applicants could be denied for a variety of reasons at the discretion of prison administrators.

The earliest conjugal visits at Somers lasted overnight but were less than 24 hours in total. Men could have multiple visitors, as long as they were members of his immediate family. This change signaled a new emphasis on domesticity over sex. Visits took place in trailers equipped with kitchens, where families cooked their own meals. Describing a similar set-up at San Quentin more than two decades later, Comfort wrote that the trailers were meant to encourage “people to simulate an ordinary living situation rather than fixate on a hurried physical congress.”

By the early 1990s, conjugal visitation, in some form, was official policy in 17 states. But a massive ideological shift in the way society viewed incarcerated people was already underway. In a seminal 1974 study called “What Works?”, sociologist Robert Martinson concluded that rehabilitation programs in prison “ had no appreciable effect on recidivism .” Thinkers on the left saw this as an argument for decarceration—perhaps these programs were ineffective because of the nature of prison itself. Thinkers on the right, and society more broadly, took a different view. As (ironically) the Washington Post observed, the findings were presented in “lengthy stories appearing in major newspapers, news magazines and journals, often under the headline, ‘ Nothing Works! ’”

Martinson’s work gave an air of scientific legitimacy to the growing “tough-on-crime” movement, but the former Freedom Rider, who once spent 40 days at Parchman, spawned punitive policies he couldn’t have predicted. In 1979, Martinson officially recanted his position. He died by suicide the following year.

In Mistretta v. United States (1989), the court ruled that a person’s demonstrated capacity for rehabilitation should not be a factor in federal sentencing guidelines because, they wrote, studies had proved that rehabilitation was “an unattainable goal for most cases.” It effectively enshrined “nothing works” into law.

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“Nothing works” gave rise to harsher sentencing, and more punitive policies in prisons themselves. In 1996, the state of California drastically reduced its conjugal visitation program . At San Quentin, this meant conjugal visits would no longer be available for people serving life sentences. To have benefitted from the program, and then have it taken away, was a particular blow to prisoners and partners alike. One woman told Comfort that she was in “mourning,” saying: “To me, I felt that it was like a death. ”

We don’t know how the men at Somers might have felt about this new era, or the heyday of conjugal visits that came before it. There are no issues of the Weekly Scene available after 1981 in the American Prison Newspapers collection, which is just after the visits began. But their writing, particularly their poetry, offers some insight into the deprivation that spurred their request. In 1968, James N. Teel writes, “Tell me please, do you ever cry, / have you ever tried to live while your insides die? ” While Frank Guiso , in 1970, said his existence was only an “illusion.” “I love and I don’t, / I hate and I don’t / I sing and I don’t / I live and I don’t,” he writes. But for others, disillusionment and loneliness take a specific shape.

“I wish you could always be close to me,” Luis A. Perez wrote in a poem called “ The Wait ” 1974:

I will hold your strong hand in my hand, As I stare in your eyes across the table. Trying to think of the best things to say, I then notice how I will not be able. I will long for your tender embraces, For your long and most desirable kiss. As I sleep cold for warmth of your body, You my love, are the one I will miss…

Today, only four states—California, Connecticut, Washington and New York—allow conjugal visits. (Mississippi, where Parchman is located, ended conjugal visitation in 2014 .) Some argue that Connecticut’s Extended Family Visit (EFV) program, as it is now called, doesn’t actually count , because it requires a prisoner’s child to be there along with another adult . There is also some suggestion that Connecticut’s program, while still officially on the books, has not been operational for some time.

The COVID-19 pandemic gave further cause to limit contact between prisoners and visitors, engendering changes that don’t appear to be going away anytime soon.

Somers was reorganized as a medium-security facility and renamed the Osborn Correctional Institution in 1994. A recent notice on the facility’s visitation website reads: “​​Masks must be worn at all times. A brief embrace will be permitted at the end of the visit .”

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Louisiana prisons will allow family visits for the first time in a year

Attorneys and volunteers are still prohibited from visiting with inmates, by: julie o'donoghue - march 11, 2021 5:10 pm.

Angola dormitory

In this file photo from July 2014, a group gets a tour of a dormitory at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola. (Jarvis DeBerry)

Louisiana will start to allow visits from inmates’ families and loved ones at state prisons again Saturday, though attorneys and volunteers will still be prohibited from coming to the correctional facilities, according to the Department of Corrections. Inmates haven’t been able to see their families in person in at least 12 months . The prisons shut down to all outsiders a year ago, on March 12, 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic started to take off. Louisiana briefly considered reopening prisons for the holiday season in late November, but hastily pulled back on those plans when coronavirus cases started to spike in the state . 

Louisiana has seen a sharp decline in hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 recently. Earlier this month, Gov. John Bel Edwards relaxed restrictions on businesses because of the progress the state had made. He also opened up vaccine eligibility to all prison employees this week. If prisoners meet the community criteria to get vaccinated, they also have access to the vaccine. Earlier on in the vaccine process, a large number of prisoners who were offered the vaccine were opting to get it .   

But the prison visits will still be more restricted than they were prior to the pandemic. Visitors and prisoners will not be able to touch each other and must be kept at least six feet apart. A piece of plexiglass will also separate them. Prior to the pandemic, people were allowed to at least hug briefly at the beginning and end of their visits — and they weren’t typically separated by a barrier. The visits will also be shorter — just 45 minutes — than they were before the pandemic. Prior to COVID-19, some visits were allowed to carry on for a few hours. All visitors and inmates will have to wear a mask and only two visitors will be allowed per prisoner. But the prison system said they will not require visitors and inmates to be vaccinated to see each other. There is a possibility that family visits to a particular facility could be shut down temporarily in the future as well. The prison system said visitation will be set on a rotating basis by dorm, such that all the inmates living together will have their visits at the same time. If an inmate in a dorm gets COVID-19, then visitation for the entire dorm will be suspended until the inmates housed in it are no longer contagious. Any prison where the COVID-19 cases exceed one half of a percent of the prison population will also have visitation put on hold until their infection rate comes down, according to the Department of Corrections. The prison system did not offer a timeline for when it would open up to volunteers and attorneys for in-person visits. A lot of programs and educational classes that volunteers run in the prison have been on hiatus for the last year due to COVID-19. 

Lawyers who would typically meet with their incarcerated clients face-to-face are now conducting those meetings mostly over the phone. At a couple of facilities — Hunt and Dixon Correctional Institute — they are also able to use Zoom to see their clients, but it’s still a challenging environment for a legal consultation, advocates said.

“It’s been difficult to prepare clients for hearings,” said Kerry Meyers, deputy director of the Parole Project, which provides legal help and coaching to longtime inmates appearing before the state’s parole board for release. “You don’t get the same interaction over the phone as you do sitting across from someone.”

Up until this week, Louisiana has one of the most restrictive states when it comes to prison visitation. At the beginning of March, it was one of only eight states that still completely prohibited visitors, according to The Marshall Project . 

Louisiana also sticks out for prioritizing family visits over attorney visits. It is one of the only states to continue to restrict attorneys from seeing their incarcerated clients. In 30 other states, attorneys are allowed to visit inmates in person, even as “normal visitation” continues to be shut down, according to The Marshall Project . 

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Julie O'Donoghue

Julie O'Donoghue

Julie O’Donoghue is a senior reporter for the Louisiana Illuminator. She’s received awards from the Virginia Press Association and Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press.

Louisiana Illuminator is part of States Newsroom , the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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Entrance to Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola

So What are the Actual Rules with Conjugal Visits and How Did They Get Their Start?

To begin with, in Britain, conjugal visits aren’t a thing, though in some cases when prisoners who have been locked up for a long period are getting close to their release date, if they are considered particularly low risk for committing crimes or going off on their merry way, they may be allowed to have family leave time for brief periods. This is time meant to help re-acclimate them to the world outside of prison and get their affairs in order, including re-connecting with family and friends, looking for work, etc.- all as a way to try to help said person hit the ground running once fully released.

Moving across the pond to the United States, first, it’s important to note that prisoners in federal custody and maximum security prisons are not allowed conjugal visits. Further, in the handful of states that do allow conjugal visits, prisoners and their guests must meet a stringent set of guidelines including full background checks for any visitors. On the prisoner’s side, anyone who committed a violent crime, has a life sentence, is a sex offender, and other such serious crimes are also not eligible. Further, in Connecticut, if an inmate is a member of a gang or even thought to be so, they are also banned from conjugal visits. On top of that, pretty much everywhere, any inmate who does anything wrong whatsoever while in prison also finds themselves either temporarily or permanently banned from such visits.

This brings us to how the whole conjugal visit thing got its start in the United States; the earliest official-ish policy with regards to allowing, in this case male, prisoners to enjoy the company of the fairer sex started in the Mississippi State Penitentiary (Parchman Farm) in the early 20th century. This was instituted as a way to get its black prisoner populace, who were used pretty literally as slave labor, to work harder while working the 20,000 acres of land at this institution. In fact, the superintendent of the prison at the time was actually a farmer himself, which is why he was hired to oversee things. As historian David M. Oshinsky, author of Worse Than Slavery: Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice , notes, “[The Administrator’s] annual report to the legislature is not of salvaged lives. It is a profit and loss statement, with the accent on the profit.”

Prisoners who didn’t work hard could be beaten and other such “stick”-type incentives leveraged. On the other hand, prisoners who worked hard, were willing to help keep their fellow prisoners in line, etc. etc. were given various rewards. In fact, in the extreme, a prisoner who managed to kill another prisoner attempting to escape could even be rewarded with a full pardon for that and whatever crime they’d previously committed to get locked up in the first place.

Most pertinent to the topic at hand, for those prisoners who were particularly well behaved and worked the hardest, one reward they could be given was the company of a prostitute on their Sunday off-day. To help facilitate this, every Sunday a literal truck load of women would be brought in to tend to the best behaved prisoners. Later, the policy was expanded to include girlfriends and wives for the men who preferred their company.

To illustrate the thinking of the prison officials in perhaps the most offensive way possible, we have this time-capsule of a quote from one contemporary prison guard from Mississippi- “You gotta understand that back in them days n***ers were pretty simple creatures. Give ‘em pork, some greens, some cornbread, and some poontang every now and then and they would work for you.”

Moving very swiftly on from there, the effectiveness of promised sex for a male prisoner, regardless of race, if they toed the line caught on and, as the century progressed, around 1/3 of the states in the U.S. eventually adopted the practice, as well as many other countries through the 20th century also instituting similar programs.

As for that effectiveness, former warden of Great Meadow Correctional Facility in New York State, Arthur Leonardo, explains, “We don’t have much to give to people in prison. If you don’t have anything to take away from someone, you don’t have anything to take away to urge them to do the right thing.”

Illustrating the effectiveness on the prisoner’s side, one Ray Coles, whose temper resulted in an assault that saw him given a nine year prison sentence, states of the incentive the conjugal visits give him to never step out of line, “Every action or choice I make is made with my wife in mind.”

As for what actually goes on during a conjugal visit, the Hollywood idea and reality, as ever, are somewhat different. While in film and TV shows, a conjugal visit is a time to get hot and sweaty with your partner, the reality is that, while sex may or may not be involved, much of the time is spent just doing normal things with not just a partner, but kids and other family members. In fact, in New York, it’s reported that around 40% of conjugal visits don’t include a spouse or the like, rather often just children and other loved ones. For this reason, these visits are usually officially called things like “Extended Family Visits” or, in New York, the “Family Reunion Program”.

As one California inmate summed up of his extended family visit with his partner, “I got to spend 2 1/2 days one-on-one with my partner, my best friend, my confidant, my life partner. It wasn’t about the sex.”

For further context here, in the United States for most prisoners, at best during normal visitation they might be allowed a brief 2 second hug with their partner and a peck on the cheek, if the latter is allowed at all. On top of that, everything you say or do is being watched, and the time together is relatively brief.

As you can imagine from this, for many prisoners, regardless of their crime, whatever prison sentence was doled out often comes with a generally unmentioned punishment of the finishing of a relationship with their partner. Combined with limited access to phones and the extreme expense of prison and jail phone calls, this also often sees a near complete disconnect from their kids, friends, etc. while in prison.

Thus, for prisoners, while sex may or may not be involved, the reality of the extended family visit is just that- depending on the exact rules for a given prison, 6-72 hours where you can spend time with your partner, kids, and sometimes other family members or friends in a somewhat normal setting, doing normal things.

As for frequency, while in movies it’s a regular thing, and little lead up time, in reality in the United States, this may be granted at best once per month all the way up to once per year, or not at all.

Towards the end of facilitating family bonding, many prisons that allow this provide a couple bedrooms to accommodate a couple and their kids, as well as things like board games, a TV, and potentially food, though costs of things like food are footed by the inmate or their loved ones. For reference, the wife of the aforementioned Ray Coles, Vanessa, states she pays around $100 per extended family visit for things like food, which is then provided by the prison.

As for regions outside the United States, places like Canada allow for extended family visits up to 72 hours in length once every couple months, including allowing anyone with a close familial bond to take part, even friends if the authorities deem the bond strong enough. As in the United States, food and other such items are paid for by the inmate or their family or friends.

Interestingly one of the most generous of the nations when it comes to family visits is Saudi Arabia, which allows a once a month visit; but if you have multiple wives, you get once per month per wife! On top of that, beyond allowing such frequent visits, the government actually pays for the travel of those coming to see you.

Back over in the United States, at its peak in the late 20th century, extended family visits were allowed in about 1/3 of states, but began dropping precipitously starting around the 1980s and 1990s to just four states today- California, Washington, New York, and Connecticut.

This was around the same time a number of such programs designed to keep people from being repeat jailbirds were given the axe across the nation, unsurprisingly directly corresponding to the prison population in the United States absolutely exploding, in the four decades since rising an astounding 500%! For reference, before the 1980s, the growth was relatively slow and steady, more or less tied to population growth. More on this in the Bonus Fact in a bit.

As for the impetus for cutting the extended family visit programs, this is generally tied to increased public sentiment starting around the 1980s and 1990s that prisoners are there to be punished, not to be coddled, and that the program costs too much. For example, in New Mexico, who relatively recently killed the extended family visit program, it was costing taxpayers about $120,000 per year.

Now, this might sound like a lot, and if you go read the news reports, this was certainly used as the driving political rhetoric to get the program nixed by the politicians involved. However, it’s noteworthy that New Mexico reports an average cost per inmate annually is a whopping $35,540, which is pretty close to the national average of about $31,000…. Meaning the entire extended family visit program was costing about what it costs to house just over 3 of their approximately 16,000 inmates per year.

Of course this is still costing taxpayers something… except when you consider, for example, a 1982 study done on New York’s prison populace which found that prisoners who were allowed extended family visits were almost 70% less likely than other prisoners to end up back in prison within three years. This makes it potentially the single most effective recidivism program known, even soundly stomping on the second king of recidivism programs- education, which we’ll talk a bit more about in the Bonus Facts.

As to why family visits seem so effective at reducing recidivism, as the aforementioned warden Arthur Leonardo, notes, those who are able to maintain family bonds while in prison, when they get out, have “someone who loves you and will help you, and in the case of children, people who depend on you…”

Going back to the reality of an extended family visit, it’s usually required that partners and the inmates be tested for STDs and come out clean before being allowed to have their little rendezvous. Further, the prisoners themselves are strip searched both before the extended family visit and after. Should they test positive for drug or alcohol use after, they are then banned from future visits indefinitely, and those who brought in the contraband may also be banned from taking part again.

On top of that, those that are visiting the prisoners must be cleared as well, though strip searches, at least in the United States, are not allowed on the visitors, so contraband may occasionally be smuggled in in certain orifices or the like. To try to get around this in, for instance California, inmates and their families are searched regularly during the extended family visits, usually at a rate of about once every four hours.

This brings us to what you can bring for an extended family visit. Well, not much- mostly just things like clean linens, certain toiletries, strictly regulated clothing, and the like. No cell phones, no electronic devices, and really not much of anything else. Even things like family pictures are pretty strictly regulated in number, type, and size. Going back to clothing, one Myesha Paul, wife of California inmate Marcello Paul who is in prison for robbery, states, “They don’t want you to have anything that’s form fitting… although we come with hips and all that, so it’s kinda hard to find what don’t fit around, you know? I just buy some men’s sweat pants and make it work.”

If you go look at the California regulations on this, they also have strict regulations when it comes to colors of clothing, for example no blue denim or forest green pants, no tan shirts, no camouflage, nothing strapless, no skirts or dresses or non-capri shorts- the list goes on and on.

Myesha also helpfully describes what a real extended family visit is like, stating, “We sat outside and played dominoes on Saturday. After that we went in and watched TV, watched movies.” And while she states her and her husband do have sex during the visit, as is almost universally noted by every other inmate and their partner we looked it, it’s more about the closeness and little things like getting to hold your partner’s hand or just hold them in general, as well as waking up next to them. She states, “It feels good… because I don’t get that at home. Ya know. At home I’m sleeping by myself, unless my grandbaby or one of my kids wanna sleep with me. But they’re grown. But they still do sleep with me sometimes. But other than that, you know, I’m waking myself up in the morning, or the alarm clock is waking me up, or my grandson comes and wakes me up. It’s good to have my husband waking me up. It’s the nicest thing about being married. Isn’t it? Waking up?”

She also states of her husband, “He watches me through the night… I know he does ’cause sometimes I wake up and he’s looking at me. And I do the same to him. Sometimes he’s sleeping and he wakes up and I’m watching him.”

Similarly summed up by the aforementioned Vanessa Coles, the value of extended family visits is about keeping her family together- “It keeps our bond going, keeps our marriage strong and keeps him on track.” As for the couple’s young kids, “The little one needs it because that’s all he knows. The older one needs it to remember what he knows.” And as for those arguing against allowing such visits, she states, “[The prisoners] are being punished. I get it. [But] destroying your marriage and family should not be a part of your sentence.”

If you liked this article, you might also enjoy our new popular podcast, The BrainFood Show ( iTunes , Spotify , Google Play Music , Feed ), as well as:

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Bonus Facts:

Going back to what caused the massive spike in U.S. incarcerations starting in the 1980s that has more or less continued unabated since, one thing often pointed to is that this was around the time the war on drugs was ramped up, generally considering to account for about 25%-50% of the increase in inmate population. This still leaves the rest, which is the majority. And unless you just think U.S. citizens are far more likely to commit crimes than, for example, our European brethren, obviously there is something weird going on. As to what, a variety of factors are pointed to including the cutting of many programs designed to keep people from being repeat offenders, marked increase in sentence length, especially compared to the rest of the world for similar crimes, and perhaps the catch-all which has driven a lot of this to the extreme- the privatization of prisons that occurred at this time, making many prisons for-profit institutions.

In the decades since, these entities have heavily lobbied for things that seem pretty directly tied to doing everything possible to make prison sentences longer and keep people coming back for more- most pertinent to the topic at hand, cutting costs wherever possible for themselves, including any and all recidivism programs. After all, they get paid per inmate, so aren’t too concerned with what the total cost is to the state, other than the greater that cost, the more they make.

Naturally, the longer sentences and increased likelihood of repeat offenders, at a rate of about 45% within 3 years and 76% within five, has seen prison populations skyrocket in the United States since the 1980s. The net result of all of this being that, at present, the land of the free currently houses almost one quarter of all inmates imprisoned in the entire world! The cost of housing these inmates comes to about $50-$70 billion annually. This does not include the police and judicial costs that get the prisoners put there in the first place- all summing up to massive sums of money being spent and many more crimes being committed while proven recidivism programs that see massive reductions in repeat offenders going largely unused. And noteworthy here is that about 95% of prisoners do get out at some point.

And speaking of recidivism programs like extended family visits, a study done by the United States Department of Justice noted that prisoners given access to educational programs were, for vocational certificates 14.6% less likely to find their way back in prison within 3 years vs. the general prison populace. For those achieving a GED while in prison, they were 25% less likely to end up back in the slammer. And those who attained an Associates degree were the highest of all in their study at about 70% less likely, approximately the same benefit as those given access to extended family visits.

Averaging it all out, the net effect of the educational programs was about a 43% reduction in rate of returning to prison within 3 years. From this, crunching the numbers, the study showed that this meant for every $1 spent by the states towards educating prisoners, it saved $5 annually thanks to the reduction of prison population, let alone other cost savings in court and police expenditures and, of course, a reduction in crime rate. Given each year about 700,000 inmates are released in the United States, that amounts to a massive reduction in crime, while a rather large increase in a better educated and more skilled populace.

Finally, one more bonus fact- while violent criminals are almost always seen as the most dangerous and most likely to re-offend by the general public, the data does not back that up at all- not even close. According to the United States Department of Justice, the highest rate of re-offenders within 3 years after being released were those stealing motor vehicles at 78.8%! Next up are those in prison for selling stolen property at 77.4%. The list goes on and on, but essentially, those who steal are generally about 70%+ likely to re-offend within 3 years and are the highest at-risk re-offenders. In stark contrast, violent crime convicts are massively less likely to re-offend. For example, rapists and murderers are only 2.5% and 1.2% likely to re-offend respectively. Of course, the latter is much more news worthy and traumatic, leading to the skewed public perception.

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I can’t comment on everything in the bonus facts, but I think the low (1.2%) re-offending rate for murder can be put down to two things: (1) they receive very long sentences (if not actually executed!), and so leave prison in their old age, and (2) they were more likely to have committed a crime of passion, rather than be career criminals. For that matter, I read that, at Devil’s Island, the murderers looked down on the thieves. Murder might be a worse crime, but it was usually the only one they committed, while the thieves were habitual criminals. (That might be a reason behind the high re-offending rate for stealing cars and receiving stolen goods.)

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You might want to look that up because it is actually not correct. Depending on the severity of the crime murder can carry as little as a 5 year sentence, and remember it is not uncommon to serve as little as one quarter of the issues sentence. Also, execution is remarkably rare with many US states banning it or in moratorium. For a detailed state by state list of murder recommended sentences see this wiki:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_punishments_for_murder_in_the_United_States

conjugal visits louisiana

The Origin of Conjugal Visits in America

C onjugal visits occur when an inmate is allowed a private visit outside the scrutiny of guards with their partner, usually a spouse, typically to have sex. There is little consistency around the world and in America as to whether conjugal visits are allowed. Even within countries that would enable such visits, it may depend on the particular city or prison involved. In the United States, federal prisons don’t allow conjugal visits, and only four states do, though the number was as high as seventeen in the 1990s. California, New York, Connecticut, and Washington are the four states that recognize conjugal rights. Connecticut doesn’t count as their “family visits” require a child to be present.

Some countries have a tradition of not housing many long-term prisoners. Sentences are either relatively short, or there is the death penalty, so conjugal visits aren’t required. The reasons for conjugal visits are that they keep prisoners under control, lead to more stable families, and give prisoners a better chance of successful rehabilitation. The reasons not to provide these visits relate to security, contraband, staffing, and viewing incarceration as punishment with no special privileges. The Supreme Court in America has found that  conjugal visits are not a right .

The first state to legalize conjugal visits in America was Mississippi in 1965, though they had been  informally allowed  at the Mississippi State Penitentiary (Parchman Farm) long before. Prostitutes would be brought in to have sex with the inmates. The goal had nothing to do with stable families or reduced recidivism. The goal was to increase productivity, giving the men incentives to perform better the manual labor required on the farm. Consider Parchman precisely like a slave plantation where all that mattered was the production of cotton first, now fruits and vegetables.

Parchman Farms was built by inmates in 1901. You might think this was 36 years after the end of slavery, but there was little to mark the difference except prison uniforms. Parchman was the largest plantation in Mississippi and needed prisoners to work its fields and to lease to neighboring plantations. The need for prisoners was exacerbated by the fact that 1 in 6 died in captivity due to overwork and poor conditions. Historian David Oshinsky wrote about the conditions in his book  Worse Than Slavery: Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice .

“The plantation owners, as best they could, wanted Blacks to return to the same place as they had been as slaves," Oshinskyu wrote. "By 1880, at least 1 convict in 4 was an adolescent or a child — a percentage that did not diminish over time. They needed a workforce. The best workforce and the cheapest workforce they could get were convicts who were being arrested for largely minor offenses and then leased out for $9 a month. Working prisoners to literal death was so commonplace that not a single leased convict ever lived long enough to serve a sentence of ten years or more.”

Related: Offering Prisoners Reduced Sentences in Exchange for Organ Donations is Evil

Two things combined to create the need and supply of inmates. The  convict leasing system  allowed the prison to utilize all the inmates they could provide by sending those not working on the prison farm to other plantations. The “ Pig Laws ” of the era made every minor offense worthy of prison. The theft of a small pig to feed one’s family merited up to a five-year sentence. Once sentenced to Parchman Farm, the inmates had few incentives to work hard.  Public whippings  only worked so much, and living long enough to serve one’s sentence was in question. Someone got the idea to try out conjugal visits, which could also be taken away at will to motivate the prisoners.

Conjugal visits began at Parchman in 1918 in “red houses” built by the prisoners. The visits were mostly limited to Black prisoners, who made up most of the prison population. The white prisoners generally served lesser sentences for the same offenses and didn’t die in prison at nearly the same rate. It was felt that Black men had stronger sexual urges and would be more pliable once satisfied. Some were allowed to see their wives, while others chose from the prostitutes bused in.

Related: Why Do Detainees Keep Dying in This Baton Rouge Jail?

Prison officials saw these visits as a means to manipulate the prisoners and also control the “sex problem,” which was a euphemism for rape. They were disturbed by homosexuality far more than working men to death.

"Officials at Parchman consistently praise the conjugal visit as a highly important factor in reducing homosexuality, boosting inmate morale, and… comprising an important factor in preserving marriages," wrote   sociologist Columbus B Hopper .

Mississippi  ended conjugal visits in 2014 . Many states had evolved to furloughs for prisoners, allowing prisoners short visits with their families. On June 6, 1986, William Horton was on his tenth furlough from a Massachusetts prison when he failed to return. Ten months later, he raped a white woman after tying up and stabbing her fiance. William was highlighted in the 1988 presidential campaign when George Bush and Lee Atwater produced the “Willie Horton” ads featuring William’s mug shot. William was dark-skinned with an unkempt beard, and his image was used to scare Americans of Black men while attacking Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis, who was governor of Massachusetts when Horton was released on furlough. William was never nicknamed “Willie” until the Bush campaign gave him that to foster the stereotype.

Many states that offered furloughs for any reason either cut back those programs or ended them. Black men were the initial reason for conjugal visits, and a Black man was made responsible for the end of many programs.

I think of the scene from The Dirty Dozen when the twelve prisoners were treated to a night with prostitutes before engaging in a potentially deadly mission. It was presented as a compassionate gesture for deserving men. That was hardly the reason for conjugal visits at Parchman, where the men were incentivized to work until they dropped.

This post originally appeared on Medium and is edited and republished with author's permission. Read more of William Spivey's work on Medium . And if you dig his words, buy the man a coffee .

The Origin of Conjugal Visits in America

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Conjugal Visits: Costly And Perpetuate Single Parenting?

Mississippi was the first state in the country to offer prisoners conjugal visits. Now the state is set to end the program, citing high costs as the main reason. Host Michel Martin speaks with Heather Thompson of Temple University about the history of conjugal visits and why prisoners' families are upset about the change.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. Now we go to Mississippi where a change in prison conditions is set to take place next week. We're talking about conjugal visits, also known as extended family visits. Mississippi is one of only six states where these visits are still permitted for lower-level offenders. But now officials there say that the privilege is too expensive to maintain and they will end them. But this made us curious about the history of conjugal visits. So we called on Heather Thompson. She's an associate professor of History at Temple University and she's with us now. Welcome, Professor Thompson. Thanks so much for speaking with us.

HEATHER THOMPSON: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: You were telling us that conjugal visits in the U.S. actually started in Mississippi in around 1918. What was the purpose of them?

THOMPSON: Well, it's an interesting history. After the Civil War when - many laws changed so that there was a much higher incarceration rate of African-Americans, primarily to staff and to labor the former plantations, there was a major increase of black labor in Mississippi penitentiaries, such as Parchman Farm. And unfortunately, the origins of this are quite insidious, which is that there was a belief at the time that - on part of white Mississippians - that African-Americans had stronger sexual desires than whites and that having sex provided for them would make them work harder as an incentive.

MARTIN: Wait. Was this explicit? I mean, were they - did they say, if you meet such and such a quota, then you get a conjugal visit?

THOMPSON: Well, certainly holding out the carrot of having sex was quite explicit. The historian that really writes the most about this, David Oshinsky, makes clear, though, that it was quite explicit also that this is what whites thought and that their bottom line desire was to get as much productivity as they could. And so they did so by carrots and sticks, and of course the sticks were much more frequent and much more brutal.

MARTIN: So has the attitude about it changed? Is it now believed to be, what - a way to keep family bonds intact?

THOMPSON: Well, eventually even Mississippi, I mean, Mississippi in the '30s extends this to white prisoners, and in 1972 extends it to women. And eventually, the various states that have it - the idea is to really keep families together. And it's really unfortunate that this focus has been on the sex and the conjugal part of this program because the idea is that this is about both the good of families on the outside as well as people on the inside.

MARTIN: But how does it actually work? I mean, is it that these are, what - trailers or there are facilities or buildings set aside on the prison grounds where families...

THOMPSON: Right, so...

MARTIN: ...Can, what? Stay for the weekend? How does it work?

THOMPSON: Each state has a slightly different arrangement, but basically these could be trailers or they could be small apartments. But, again, we need to understand that this is something that's given to people who are in medium to minimum-security facilities, with the idea being that it's very important for people to see their families because there's just so much evidence that shows that this is good for society in general.

MARTIN: Well, is there any data to show that it, in fact, has this benefit?

THOMPSON: Yes, indeed. I mean, there's been several studies - American Journal of Criminal Justice has a pretty important study in 2012. Yale Law School had a pretty important study in 2012, which makes it clear that these are both incentives for good behavior, but also that it's really good for reducing violence in the prison and so forth. But there's also just ancillary studies that show that people who connected with their family tend to do much better, tend to recidivate less, that is to go back to prison again, less frequently. And there's no question that the data for children shows that these are people who would keep these relationships with their children and their spouses that would benefit them on the other side, benefit everyone.

MARTIN: Well, you know, to that end, the Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner, Christopher B. Epps, said in a release that he is terminating these visits because of budgetary constraints. But he also said in a release that the decision was about decreasing the possibility that more children would be conceived who would then have to be raised by single parents. He says, quote, even though we provide contraception, we have no idea how many women are getting pregnant only for the child to be raised by one parent. And the implication here is that it's not...

THOMPSON: Right.

MARTIN: ...In the best interest for society to kind of create the conditions which would allow more children to be raised in single-parent households, at least for the duration of the incarceration. Do you think that - what is your assessment of that point of view?

THOMPSON: No, I think - I just think it's, you know, it is in some respects a ridiculous argument for a number of reasons. First of all, with regard to the cost, when Mississippi was pressed, there was really very little data on this. They couldn't really even explain how much it cost. You're talking about a program that is already so restrictive that last year it's my understanding that only a 155 people out of almost 23,000 people in the system even had access to this program. So there's very little evidence that this is immediately too costly. So that's number one. But the other issue has to do with this question of single parenting and children born out of wedlock. The data I've seen, first of all, shows that the pregnancy rate is not exorbitantly high and certainly not higher than in society in general. And the other thing I want to say about this - remember, you know, my point about - these are families who will be reunited. These are families who will be together. And so to make this argument that children that happened to be born out of these visits should not have been born is sort of ridiculous.

Think about the corollary. If we were to say that, for example, people that went to the military who had to go away for four years to Iraq should never have had children or shouldn't have children if they come home on leave - we would never say that. So what we're really saying is that we don't believe that prisoners, people who have offended, quote-unquote, should have the right to have children or have the right to parent their children.

MARTIN: I think that many people would disagree with your analogy, which leads me to my final question, which is that many people would say that that, you know, it's unfortunate for the families, but that is one of the - that's the price you pay for committing a crime. That you have...

THOMPSON: Exactly.

MARTIN: ...Privileges taken away from you. And one of the privileges, one of the most important privileges you have taken away from you is the ability to be fully present for your family. And...

MARTIN: ...That anything you do to make prison more comfortable, let me say, let me just put it that way - I know you would disagree with that, but just for the sake of argument, is not to be encouraged. And so...

MARTIN: ...I think their argument is that it is not analogous to the military in which people are in fact serving the country as opposed to having committed penalties or having transgressed the boundaries or the laws of the country. And those are completely different.

THOMPSON: Absolutely. That's exactly - that is exactly the argument that they would make. My counter to that would be not - I'm not equating even, I'm not necessarily equating people who are in prison with people in the military. That was not actually the point. The point is it has to do with the children on the outside. Children, for example, do better when they are connected with their parents, particularly assuming that these parents are not violent people.

Then we know that this would be, from a broader point of view, would be good for children. But it's also good in general because what we know from the data is that this benefits the society because people who are bound to community tend to do better when they come back to the community.

MARTIN: Are there other countries around the world where this practice is still in use?

THOMPSON: The closest example to us of course is Canada. And in Canada, inmates are allowed conjugal visits, not just with spouses and partners and their children, which is what we were talking about, but also their parents. Particularly this is important for young people in prison, even in-laws. And outside of this country it's my understanding that quite a few countries have this. I think Trinidad, there's some programs like this in Turkey, Costa Rica, my understanding Israel, Mexico and several Latin American countries.

So it - again, we have moved towards a much more punitive moment in our history. You know, it's not 'til 1974 actually, in a district court ruling out of the Ohio, that it's decided that inmates don't have a constitutional right to this.

MARTIN: You're saying that we're in a much more punitive moment when it comes to criminal justice. But we're also in a moment where political players on both the right and the left have been willing to revisit some of these issues in part because of the expense of high levels of incarceration. From your discussions of these issues, I mean, this is a research area of interest of yours, is there any move afoot to rethink this in other places?

THOMPSON: Absolutely. And what's actually quite interesting about this is that Mississippi I think is kind of an outlier in the way that they're thinking about this. To the right and to the left people are thinking that the system is broken, which it is, and that we need to de-incarcerate more, we need to think about criminal justice in a smarter way. And in fact, many programs are pushing back the other way which is to say we need stronger re-entry programs.

We need stronger programs for children of the incarcerated. We need stronger programs so that people do not come back to prison. Mississippi's decision to save money on a program that they can't even document was too expensive is actually an outlier I would say, in the direction we need to go.

MARTIN: Heather Thompson is an associate professor of History. She's also in the Department of African-American studies at Temple University. And she was kind enough to join us on the line from Philadelphia. Professor Thompson, thanks so much for speaking with us.

THOMPSON: Thanks so much.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Inmate Search & General Jail Guide

Inmate Search | Inmate Mail | Inmate Phones | Orca Lookup & More

How To Visit An Inmate In Prison | All Your Questions Answered

Table of Contents

Visiting an inmate for the first time is one that is filled with mixed feelings of what to wear, what form of identification to present to the guards, what to bring along as a gift, if kids are allowed in, and other random thoughts like that.

With all these thoughts popping up in your head at the same time, you may end up more confused and frustrated. Not to worry!

This guide contains what you need to know when visiting an inmate for the first time, and perhaps will provide answers to all your confusions.

Types Of Prison Visitations

There are several types of visitation for inmates. Visitation ranges from video visitation, non-contact/telephone visitation, and contact visitation.

Prison Video Visitation

Video visitation is the one that’s mostly being used today. Just like the way you’d use Skye, video visitation can be done even from the comfort of your home.

No Contact Jail Visitation

Non-contact/ telephone visitation is one that involves sitting behind a glass barricade while talking with your inmate on the telephone.

Full Contact Prison Inmate Visitation

Contact visitation is the most common and often preferred by visitors. Here, you are able to sit with the inmate and talk for a short period of time. It even gives you the opportunity to even make contact with your ok inmate, however there’s a limitation to that.

Forms of contact usually allowed include a brief hug, hello, and goodbye. Holding of hands is often frowned at by prison officials.

inmate conjugal visits

What To Do Before You Visit A Prison

It is important that before you are granted access to visit your inmate, you must have previously been in contact with him/her. The prison has a visitors list that contains the friends and family members that are allowed to visit.

Some facilities provide inmates a list containing slots for 10 visitors that they wish to include. As such, the inmates must have all the details of the visitors he intends to include In the list, which include: the visitor’s full name, the visitor’s address, the phone number, and at times more other information about the visitor.

So if your inmate does not know all this information, you can send him a mail containing a letter that stipulates your information. 

Other facilities may request all prospective visitors of the inmate to fill out a visiting application (some only give out this form based on the wish of the inmate).

How To Apply For A Visitation At The Prison

The visiting application is given to visitors who intend to pay a visit to inmates, however not all facilities will request that you fill a visitors application (most facilities do anyway).

The visiting application is more like a questionnaire that contains a portion in which you are required to fill out your name, address, and questions that seeks to find out if you are a convicted felon, or if you’ve been incarcerated or worked in the department of corrections.

Proceed to answer, fill in your names and answer the questions as truthful as you can because the information provided will be used to perform a background check up on you.

The findings will determine if your visit will be approved or denied.

What Can Make You Denied From Visiting A Friend In Jail?

  • If the information provided in the visiting application is false.
  • If you’re a convicted felon.
  • If you’ve previously served time in a correctional facility, or have worked in the department of corrections.
  • If you have outstanding warrants.
  • If there’s a protective order against you or the inmate.
  • If you are seen as a threat to security at the facility.
  • If you are on PTI, probation, or parole (although some exceptions can be made to this).
  • If you’ve already filled a visiting application to another inmate at the facility.

You will only know if your visiting application is approved or denied when your inmate tells you, most institutions will not inform you. Therefore, you must ensure a constant communication with your inmate to ascertain the status of your application.

However, if you’re denied visiting privileges, you have a choice to appeal the decision. Only make sure you file for appeal within the stated time frame.

How To Prepare For A Prison Visitation

If your visiting application is approved by the facility, check the schedule of the visitation hours specified by the institution.

You check visiting hours for some facilities on their website, and be sure to double check if possible, as visiting hours may be changed at any time or even cancelled without notifying you.

A correctional facility may cancel visiting if the facility goes on a lockdown, if an inmate has escaped, or due to reasons known to the facility. An inmate may also be denied visiting privileges if they’re confined in solitary.

Once you are sure of the visiting hours, ensure to take along every needed form of identification on the day you intend visiting your inmate.

Although in most cases you only need your valid state issued identification card or drivers license, some facilities however vary in the type of identification they accept.

Visiting A Jail As A Minor Or With A Minor

If you’re visiting with a child or minor, the facility will require you to first fill out a special visiting with minors authorization form.

When such a minor is above 14, he/she would have to come along with a school issued photo ID or birth certificate before they’re allowed to visit.

Also, minors are not allowed to visit inmates alone, as it is required that they must be always accompanied by a parent or guardian. Inmates who were incarcerated for crimes against a child cannot have access to visits by minors.

Small children or babies may also need to come along with their birth certificate to be allowed to visit, but it is not a must in all cases. When visiting with children, try as much to control them because they’re found causing a nuisance, you can get kicked out from the visiting area.

How To Dress For A Prison Visitation

Every correctional facility has a dress code for visitors thus, if you’re visiting any, ensure to put on the specified dress code else you’ll be refused from visiting. 

Here are some things to keep in mind when selecting a dress for visiting inmates:

  • Do not put on a dress that resembles the inmate’s clothes in design or color, and that of the staff.
  • Do not visit in medical scrubs or any sort of uniform, as this may pose a threat to the facility’s security.
  • You must dress in shirts and put on shoes.
  • Clothes that expose sensitive parts of the body are prohibited.
  • See through fabrics are not allowed.
  • Sleeveless shirts are prohibited.
  • Shorts and skirts that are above the knee or those with slits are prohibited.
  • Offensive imprints or languages on clothing is prohibited.
  • Tight clothing which include spandex, leggings, tights are prohibited.
  • Jewelries are also prohibited, so keep that in mind when dressing.

Sometimes, it is up to the prison guard to scrutinize which kind of dressing is allowed into the prison. To avoid being sent back because of a violation in dress code, you can come with a change of clothing just in case.

Getting Searched At A Prison During Visitation

It is advisable to arrive a few minutes early to the facility when visiting, as you may be required to fill out more paperwork (you may get into trouble if you arrive too early though).

Keep in mind that you’ll be searched from your arrival at the parking lot, your car will also be searched by the prison guards or even security dogs for any incriminating item or one that violates the rules of the facility.

Even when you enter the facility, expect to be searched again usually by pat down or with a metal detector. And If you refuse to be searched, you’ll be banned from visiting.

There are even cases where visitors must consent to strip search before they’re allowed in, but if you’re not comfortable with this, it doesn’t mean you’ll be refused visitation. 

Strip searching was mainly done to detect drugs hidden in the body that scanners couldn’t pick. However, it is now a thing of the past as security dogs are used by facilities instead.

What To Take With You On A Prison Visitation

This varies from one facility to another. Some facilities may provide lockers that can be rented for about a quarter to store your belongings in, others do not.

You’re only allowed to bring in your ID, single car key, eyeglasses (if any), some change for use at the vending machine, as you may need it to buy snacks for your inmate while you talk.

If you’re visiting with a baby, you may be allowed to come with a feeding bottle and a change of diaper. Items such as medications, cigarettes are considered illegal, as you can be banned if found in possession of any of these, and possibly charged.

Questions About Visiting A Friend In Jail

If you have about visiting an inmate that was not answered in this article, you can post in the comment section below and we’ll do our best to provide answers to such questions.

Can you kiss on prison visits?

You can kiss during prison visitation at a low risk community prison, however, in many other centres, the case is different. Kissing on a prison visit depends on the type of prison facility where your loved one is incarcerated.

These days, most facilities do their best to prevent direct contact in order to avoid smuggling of drugs and other prohibited substances. If you intend to kiss your loved one, then make sure the rules in the facility permit you to do so.

How long does it take to get approved for prison visitation?

Most prison visitations are approved on a first-come first-served basis. Your request for a prison visit can be approved in less than a week, however the visitation date may vary.

You need to put in every prison visitation request on time so as to factor in the time it may take to process other requests submitted before you, and to give the prison operations director enough time to make adequate preparations for the security and safety of you and other visitors.

What is the process of visiting someone in prison?

For most prisons, you will need to fill out a visitation request online, and submit it for them to get started on processing your visitation request. FOr many others, you will need to schedule a visit through the visitation centre.

How do I visit someone in jail in Canada?

Most prisons in Canada accommodate visits through a visitation centre. You will need to schedule an appointment through the visitation centre for your request to be processed.

Can you wear jeans to visit an inmate?

Members of the public are allowed to wear jeans or any form of clothing to a prison visitation. Notwithstanding the type of clothe you put on, highly sophisticated infra-red sensors will always be at major entry points to scan you for prohibited items.

How many visits do prisoners get a week?

Prisoners are allowed to get as much visits as the prison can accommodate. Most prisons tailor their activities to only accept a number of visitors per day and once this number is reached, other visitation requests are pushed on to the next available day.

Are conjugal visits monitored?

Conjugal visits are usually monitored for the safety of both the inmate and the visitor. A highly trained staff will monitor the activities that happen during the visit to make sure that the visitation conforms with acceptable practices.

Conjugal visits were designed as a means to preserve families and give incarcerated people the opportunity to procreate even while in prison. These days, there are not many prison facilities around the world that still allow conjugal visits from an inmate’s registered spouse.

Can you swear in a letter to an inmate?

If a letter to an inmate contains a swear word, it will be given a second review to determine what to do with it. The level and context of the swearing in a letter will determine if it will be handed over to the inmate, or confiscated for vulgarity.

What happens to your clothes when you go to jail?

When you go to jail, your clothes are locked up in your property. This is a little lock box assigned to all inmates where clothes, keys, wallets, shoes and received books/letters are kept.

How should I dress for a prison visit?

While preparing for a prison visitation, wear something that you feel very comfortable in. Do not put on very oversized clothes that may put you on the spotlight and have the guards second-guessing if you;re hiding something underneath.

Do Death row inmates get visitors?

Yes. Death row inmates are allowed to receive visitors just like any other inmate. Friends and family, loved ones, lawyers, human rights organisations and other religious societies are allowed to visit inmates on death row.

Can you wear a bra in jail?

Inmates are given adequately sized bras in jail to put on. While these bras are issued, it is however the responsibility of the inmate to put them on.

Can you hug an inmate during visitation?

Hugging an inmate can be allowed in certain incarceration facilities, but in some others, a no contact law is usually enforced and must be adhered to.

Your ability to hug a loved one during a prison visitation will depend on the laws guiding that particular institution. Make sure you check in with the regulations before you attempt to hug an inmate.

Can you wear your wedding ring in jail?

A wedding ring is usually considered a sentimental item and thus, inmates are allowed to wear their wedding rings after they are vetted by the security department.

If an inmate poses some degree of threat, or is seen capable of inflicting bodily harm or injury through a ring, then they are denied the ability to wear their wedding ring while in prison.

Can you FaceTime inmates?

It is not possible to facetime with inmates. Electronic gadgets are prohibited in prisons and any inmate found with a mobile phone will face very serious charges which could increase their sentence.

What can you bring to a conjugal visit?

If you’re approved for a conjugal visit, you will be given a list of items that are permitted, and a list of items that are prohibited.

Breaking the law during a conjugal visit may lead to very serious consequences for both the visitor and the inmate.

What is a conjugal visit in jail?

A conjugal visit is a visitation that allows an inmate have some private time for intercourse with a listed spouse. This type of visitation is allowed to help families cope with their intimate desires.

Why are conjugal visits not allowed?

For most facilities, conjugal visits are denied because they pose a great risk to the operations of the prison facility. Most times, prisoners use conjugal visits as an opportunity to smuggle prohibited items like drugs and weapons into the prison facility.

Can you get sperm from an inmate for artificial insemination?

It is impossible to get a sperm from an inmate for artificial insemination. This is a practice that has not been approved in any prison facility. If you intend to conceive, you can request for a conjugal visit if it is allowed, or have intercourse with your partner if they are ever released to attend a funeral or family event.

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9 Arresting Facts About Conjugal Visits

By suzanne raga | sep 6, 2015.

iStock

They're not nearly as common as pop culture might lead you to believe.

1. ONLY FOUR STATES STILL ALLOW CONJUGAL VISITS.

In the United States, conjugal visits occur only in state prisons, not federal prisons. In the early 1990s, 17 states had active conjugal visit programs. As of 2015, though, California, New York, Connecticut, and Washington are the only states that still allow conjugal visits . Two other states that recently had conjugal visit policies in place— Mississippi and New Mexico—stopped allowing the visits as of February 1, 2014 and May 1, 2014, respectively.

2. THE PHRASE "CONJUGAL VISIT" IS ACTUALLY A MISNOMER.

Today, conjugal visits are called extended family visits (or, alternately, family reunion visits). The official reason for these extended family visits is three-fold: to maintain a connection between the prisoner and his family, to reduce recidivism , and to provide an incentive for good behavior. States no longer use the phrase “conjugal visit” to emphasize the program’s inclusion of all family members, rather than just the prisoner’s spouse/partner.

3. LIKE HOTELS, PRISONS THAT FACILITATE EXTENDED FAMILY VISITS PROVIDE TOILETRIES FOR THEIR GUESTS.

In the United States, prisons have special facilities (cabins, trailers, or apartment-style housing) dedicated just to extended family visits. Some prisons provide towels, sheets, toiletries, condoms, and lube to their inmates. Other prisons provide two-bedroom apartments with a living and dining room, DVD player, TV, and games like Jenga and dominoes. Depending on the state and the specific prison’s rules, visitors may be allowed to bring groceries and prepared food to the visit.

4. BOTH PRISONERS & THEIR VISITORS MUST FULFILL CERTAIN REQUIREMENTS TO GET PERMISSION FOR A VISIT.

The specific rules pertaining to extended family visits vary from state to state. Most visits in California, Connecticut, New York, and Washington occur only in minimum to medium security prisons, and inmates must have a record of good behavior and a record of clean health. A spouse who visits their husband/wife inmate must pass a background check, body search, and be registered with the prison’s visitor list.

5. CONJUGAL VISITS ORIGINATED IN MISSISSIPPI NEARLY 100 YEARS AGO.

In 1918, the first conjugal visits occurred at a labor camp called Parchman Farm (also called Mississippi State Penitentiary). The warden, James Parchman, wanted to encourage the African-American male prisoners to work harder, so he paid prostitutes to come and have sex with the inmates each Sunday. In the 1930s, Parchman Farm began letting white male prisoners engage in this program, and female inmates were invited to participate in 1972.

6. PRISONERS IN INDIA HAVE THE LEGAL RIGHT, NOT PRIVILEGE, TO BEAR CHILDREN.

In 2015, India’s government passed legislation stating that conjugal visits are a right , not a privilege, for married inmates. These inmates are also entitled, if they wish, to give their sperm to their spouse for artificial insemination. Interestingly, in 2014, prison officials in New Mexico cited the birth of children to fathers who were incarcerated as a big contributing factor (besides economic reasons) to end conjugal visits in the state.

7. PRISONS IN SAUDI ARABIA ARE SURPRISINGLY (ABSURDLY!) LIBERAL, LAX, & GENEROUS.

In Saudi Arabia, male inmates can have one conjugal visit each month. But that rule applies to each spouse, so men with multiple wives can have multiple visits each month! The Saudi government helps inmates’ families with money each month for housing, food, and education, and the government also pays for the travel (airfare and hotel) expenses that inmates’ family members incur to visit the prison. And, if the prisoner wants to attend a family wedding or funeral, he's given up to $2600 to give as a gift . The Washington Post reported that the Saudi government spent $35 million on these prisoner perks in 2014.

8. IN 2010, A GERMAN PRISONER USED HIS UNSUPERVISED CONJUGAL VISIT TO MURDER HIS VISITOR.

In April 2010, a 50-year-old inmate killed his 46-year-old girlfriend during a conjugal visit in a German prison. After sending him letters in prison, she became his girlfriend and participated regularly in six-hour unsupervised visits with him. The inmate, Klaus-Dieter H., had been imprisoned for nearly two decades for the rape and murder of a child. Unfortunately, he stabbed his girlfriend with a steak knife and strangled her during one of those visits. Because this incident came on the heels of a few other instances of slack security at German prisons (including prisoner beatings and escapes), many outraged Germans criticized prison authorities and the justice minister, Roswitha Müller-Piepenkötter. Ultimately, German prisons beefed up security and implemented stricter rules for conjugal visits, increasing the restrictions on which prisoners are allowed to have the visits.

9. BRAZIL'S CONJUGAL VISIT POLICY IS QUITE SEXIST.

In Brazil, both straight and gay male inmates can receive visitors , but female inmates rarely get the privilege of participating in conjugal visits. Unfortunately, discriminatory policies are probably the least of the female inmates’ worries: Brazil’s prison cells are overcrowded, filthy, unsanitary, and dangerous. Women in prison who are pregnant do not have access to medical care, and many female inmates are confined to isolation units without cause.

An extraordinary story of forgiveness: from life without parole to finding grace

A new project gives a voice to people serving life sentences in Louisiana – and brought together two men whose lives collided in tragedy

Charles Amos spoke candidly about the crime he committed.

Against a black backdrop in front of a single camera at Louisiana’s Angola prison, 25 years after it happened, he spoke of his remorse, his rehabilitation and how prison had changed him.

“There’s so many things that I could’ve done better,” he said. “And now that I see it, how much better life could be … it hurts. I could be a blessing or a benefit in the lives of so many people. But the system don’t want to give me that opportunity.”

Amos was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole in 1995, incarcerated since the age of 20. In his booking photo he stares down the lens, almost childlike, with piercing brown eyes. More than two decades later, the graying borders on his hair and beard are testament to how much time has passed.

A hand holds an iPhone with a black and white photo of a young man on the screen

Louisiana, America’s most incarcerated state, has sentenced people to life without parole at the highest rate in the country. Over half of those incarcerated, like Amos, were convicted of second-degree murder , sweepingly defined under state law and mandatorily sentenced to life.

The vast majority of these inmates, mostly men and disproportionately Black, have not been heard from in public since they were locked away for the rest of their lives.

Amos’s on-camera interview was part of a groundbreaking new venture, the Visiting Room , an oral history project and website launched on Monday. It broadcasts interviews with more than 100 Angola inmates filmed while serving life without parole. All have been incarcerated for over two decades, and most were convicted of second-degree murder.

Their stories intertwine narratives of bleak prison violence, reflections on childhood and family, and a longing for mercy. In Amos’s case the interview helped unlock a pathway to freedom, in an extraordinary story of forgiveness, which would lead to an embrace with his victim’s father earlier this year in the same courtroom where he was convicted.

It was July 1993 when Amos shot and killed his childhood friend, Sean Butler. It happened in a split second, a blazing row over a handgun and a moment of impulsive rage.

Amos had grown up in uptown New Orleans , where he was physically and emotionally abused by his stepfather. He had left school at the age of 11, and left his family home when he was 12. At the time of the shooting, he was battling drug and alcohol addiction.

He did not meet his court-appointed defense lawyer until the day of the trial, he recalled. One of his attorneys left the courtroom for almost two hours during testimony (the trial lasted less than a day). At sentencing his lead lawyer, who was later disbarred twice for ignoring clients and stealing payments, offered no argument against the life sentence.

“I was functioning illiterate and I didn’t know what was happening during the course of the trial,” Amos said in an interview. “I thought I was winning when all the while I didn’t stand a chance.”

His experience is far from exceptional among the Visiting Room’s rows of interviewees, many incarcerated at a young age, in an era when chronic poverty, aggressive prosecution and an overburdened court system led to ballooning incarceration rates.

“Life without parole in Louisiana is really an abstraction,” said Dr Marcus Kondkar, a sociology professor at Loyola University and one of the project’s co-creators. “Even academics who study it think of it as a structural problem but still don’t tie it to an individual’s life. With this, we wanted to create a real cultural encounter.”

Throughout the 1980s and 90s, the population of lifers incarcerated in Louisiana surged after the state abolished clemency laws that created pathways to release after 10 years and six months. Commutations became more complex and increasingly rare. Also contributing to the surge was a 1972 supreme court decision that temporarily ended the death penalty, and the expansion of the number of offenses , from two to seven, that were mandatorily punishable with life without parole.

All occurred against a backdrop of conservative political policy and media coverage , restricting prisoners’ rights to clemency and humane conditions. The lurch towards such sentences occurred across the US, but the rates have soared highest in Louisiana.

A man in a navy button down stands for a portrait in front of a whiteboard with names written out and computer monitors

The statistics speak for themselves . In 1972, there were just 193 people serving life sentences in Louisiana. In 2022 there are more than 4,000 – about 14% of the state’s entire prison population .

“These sentences have been normalized and the statistics bear that out,” said the historian Reiko Hillyer, author of the forthcoming book A Wall is Just a Wall . “The people who pushed for life without parole and mandatory minimum sentences also pushed for legislation curtailing prisoners’ rights to litigate against inhumane conditions, rights that were hard won during the civil rights movement.

“The same language was used nationwide to curtail furloughs and conjugal visits, which conservatives portrayed as extravagant indulgences. The language helped the free public imagine those convicted of crimes as permanent incorrigibles who did not deserve humane treatment and instead should be permanently disposed of.”

The proliferation of life without parole sentences in Louisiana has left behind an increasingly ageing prison population. In 2015 the average age of a state prisoner was 36 years; now it is 41, according to the Marshall Project . More than half of the state’s lifers are over 50 years old. The annual cost to the state for incarcerating an inmate under 50 is just under $25,000 but balloons to more than $77,000 once an individual reaches 50. Recidivism rates plunge among those released in older age.

Angola’s first prison graveyard was filled many years ago and a second is nearing capacity. A prison hospice program, captured in a documentary on the Oprah Winfrey network , is staffed mostly by life-sentenced volunteers.

Among the Visiting Room’s most poignant interviews is with Sammie Robinson, 81 years old at the time he speaks, and incarcerated since 1953. Dwight D Eisenhower was the US president then, it would be another 16 years before the first moon landing, and Jim Crow segregation was legal in the state. Robinson was 17 years old.

With his head held in his hands, he speaks about the violence he experienced during Angola’s notorious years as America’s most brutal prison. He sustained third-degree burns across his body during a prison fight when he was set alight using lighter fluid.

“When I came, they were wicked,” he said of the prison staff back then.

“I need to be out,” he says, shaking his head seemingly in disbelief. “I could go somewhere and make me a living.”

Robinson was Angola’s longest-serving inmate. He died in 2019, while still in prison, at the age of 83. He had spent 66 years inside; the video is the last interview he ever gave.

The futility of his sentence is perhaps exemplified by the fact that it relates to a murder that occurred while he was in Angola, during a prison fight two years after he was first incarcerated. The conviction that initially sent him to prison was later reversed and dismissed after it emerged he had been given no legal counsel at all at trial.

“Man, if I hadn’t been there for that [charge], I wouldn’t have been here and had to kill that dude,” he is quoted as saying in an obituary published in the prison’s newspaper, the Angolite .

“W hen I watch Sammie’s interview, I just feel extreme sadness. He got old in there, and he never had a chance to get out. The door just slammed on him,” said Calvin Duncan, a former Angola inmate who partnered with Kondkar to curate the Visiting Room project.

The project began as an academic collaboration between Kondkar and Duncan, who spent 28 years on a life without parole sentence after being wrongly convicted. He became a famed jailhouse lawyer , assisting many fellow inmates with their claims, and returned to the prison to assist Kondkar in the interview process.

A man in a light blue button down and gray suit stands for a portrait

They selected a representative sample of inmates serving life without parole: overwhelmingly and disproportionately Black, convicted of second-degree murder and incarcerated for more than 20 years. They conducted interviews over a two - year period. But it became clear in the first round of interviews that Duncan, who knew many of the men so intimately already, affected their subjects’ ability to speak freely, so Kondkar sat alone with each inmate.

“Part of prison means not showing weakness. You go through life like that. You could be in prison for 20 years and nobody would ever see you cry,” said Duncan. “You hold this stuff in all your life because there’s nobody to actually share it with. This was the first opportunity they had to feel comfortable.”

Many of the men break down during their conversations.

Hannibal Stanfield was 19 at the time of his offense in 1988 and had spent 28 years incarcerated at the time of his interview. He remains incarcerated.

Two men embrace, a man to the right smiles

“It’s a lot of pressure and stress being in a hopeless situation,” he says. “Waking up every day and not knowing whether you’re going to die in prison. To take a human being basically and just take the worst decision he ever made and hold him responsible for it for the rest of his entire life and not even consider that he may have changed.

“It’s a death sentence – it’s a slow death.”

Kuantay Reeder, incarcerated since 1993, speaks openly about his fear of dying inside.

“You can hear men wake up from their sleep from having nightmares, knowing they’re going to die here. I had those nightmares. But I trick myself into believing that I’m going to get out. And that’s what I wake up for,” he says.

“You see people die every day. And you wonder if you’re ever going to become that person. If you’re going to ever get out. You don’t know.”

Reeder, who was 19 at the time he was charged with second-degree murder, was exonerated last year after 28 years inside.

L ike many others in the project, Amos talks in detail about how, through sheer will, he turned his life around inside. Shortly after arriving in prison, he learned to read by taking two-hour literacy classes and studying after hours in the dormitory. It was followed by a GED qualification and then a bachelor’s degree in Christian ministry.

“As I started to learn, it became so enjoyable,” he recalled in an interview. “Book after book was intriguing, and I said: ‘I should have been doing this.’ I was supposed to be educated. I was supposed to be a thinking man. But I was so traumatized as a youth.”

He became a prison tutor and later a traveling preacher, working between prisons across the state. He took culinary classes. Finally, he became a prison librarian, lobbying to deliver as many reading materials to inmates as possible.

But still, the prospect of dying inside gnawed away at him.

“Men were hanging themselves. Men were cutting their wrists. And it’s because so many men were learning and educating themselves and they still weren’t going home.”

In 2014, he joined the prison television station, filming and producing content. And a few years later he met Kondkar.

A man in front of a blue brick wall adjust a camera on a tripod

During his interview, Amos says he had heard through family that his victim’s father, Wilbert Wilson, had indicated an openness to forgiving him for his crime.

Kondkar found Wilson still living in New Orleans, now in his early 70s. He showed him the film.

Sitting in his small home in the city’s seventh ward, Wilson recalled the moment he watched Amos appear on screen for the first time, now a grown, middle-aged man.

“It brought tears to me, just seeing him,” he said. “I couldn’t focus, it hurt me to see it. The question kept coming back to me: why?”

Wilson had known Amos as a child. He had grown fond of him and had offered help in escaping his abusive stepfather by allowing him to sleep at his home on occasion. Amos had also assisted Wilson after he was shot in his own home, leaving him paralysed on his left side.

“I knew he had a good heart,” Wilson, now 75, said. “But I could see he was disturbed by something, that something in his life wasn’t right.”

A man opens his arm wide on a residential street

As the video began to roll, a weight began to lift. Wilson saw how Amos’s life had changed; the qualifications he had earned in prison, his faith in God. He decided to back Amos’s application for sentence commutation.

“I prayed, and said: ‘Lord, I’ve got to get this hatred off my heart. It’s a miserable feeling. You can’t function right. So I forgave.”

The number of commutations signed by Louisiana governors has plummeted since the legislative reforms of the 1970s, amid mounting conservative political pressure. The Republican governor Bobby Jindal, who served from 2008 to 2016, signed just three in his entire tenure.

But Amos’s petition was granted by the state’s Democratic governor, John Bel Edwards. His sentence was reduced to 99 years with parole eligibility, meaning he would remain in prison but had a shot of release at a later date.

Earlier this year, the case was re-examined by a newly created civil rights division in the New Orleans district attorney’s office. Attorneys explored the circumstances of the shooting, that Amos had not set out that evening with intent to kill Sean Butler. They acknowledged Amos’s appalling legal representation at trial, and recommended his conviction be downgraded to manslaughter.

A man sits on a couch seen through a hallway

Wilson supported the entire process, and met Amos in person for the first time in a court session before the post-conviction hearing, facilitated by the district attorney’s office. They embraced, and Amos explained for the first time what had transpired that night – how the argument had quickly gotten out of control and he opened fire in a spontaneous moment, triggered, he believed, by the abuse he suffered as a child. He once again expressed unmitigated remorse.

A mos was released from Angola in April. On his second day of freedom he visited Wilson as a free man, and now sees him at least once a week. They play chess together. Amos prepares his food sometimes. And Amos’s sister, Judy Bell, works as Wilson’s live-in carer.

“Even though my son is gone, and he [Amos] took my son away,” Wilson said, as they sat in his living room side by side. “I feel like I got a son I can count on too. I feel Charles will be there for me. What Sean would have done, I think Charles would do it for me.”

Such stories, advocates argue, should underscore the need for Louisiana to revisit the cases of thousands of other reformed inmates held for decades under life without parole sentences.

“The state legislature should pass laws that allow for the parole eligibility of individuals who have reached the age of 50 or have already served 25 years,” said Hillyer. “There must be a way to allow for review.”

Two men play chess

Kondkar argued the purpose of the Visiting Room is not to advocate a particular policy outcome, but to allow people to see the inhumane consequences of a longstanding policy.

“It’s such an incredibly severe punishment that we disproportionately give to very young people whose brains haven’t fully developed,” he said.

“I think that the way we do life sentences in this country, but particularly in Louisiana, with the ease with which we can turn all kinds of things into a life sentence, creates something that in most parts of the world would be considered cruel and unusual.”

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Federal Bureau of Prisons

General visiting information.

Make sure your visit will be a success by carefully following these four steps.

Discover or confirm the whereabouts of the inmate you would like to visit.

Before you can visit you must be placed on the inmate's approved visiting list.

Review all visiting rules, regulations, and procedures before your visit.

Find out when you can visit and get directions to the facility.

Locate the inmate

Sometimes an inmate may be moved to a different facility so that they can benefit from unique programs offered at that location. They might also be moved to receive treatment for a medical condition or for security concerns. Therefore, the first step in planning your visit should be to determine where the inmate is currently housed.

Please verify you are a human by entering the words you see in the textbox below.

To visit, you must be pre-approved.

You can only visit an inmate if they have placed you on their visiting list and you have been cleared by the BOP.

  • An inmate is given a Visitor Information Form when he/she arrives at a new facility.
  • Inmate completes their portion of the form and mails a copy to each potential visitor.
  • Potential visitor completes all remaining form fields.
  • Potential visitor sends the completed form back to the inmate's address (listed on the form).
  • We may request more background information and possibly contact other law enforcement agencies or the NCIC
  • The inmate is told when a person is not approved to visit and it is the inmate's responsibility to notify that person.

Who can an inmate add to their visiting list?

  • Step-parent(s)
  • Foster parent(s)
  • Grandparents
  • No more than 10 friends/associates
  • Foreign officials
  • Members of religious groups including clergy
  • Members of civic groups
  • Employers (former or prospective)
  • Parole advisors

In certain circumstances such as when an inmate first enters prison or is transferred to a new prison, a visiting list might not exist yet. In this case, immediate family members who can be verified by the information contained in the inmate's Pre-Sentence Report, may be allowed to visit. However, if there is little or no information available about a person, visiting may be denied. You should always call the prison ahead of time to ensure your visit will be permitted.

Be Prepared

You should be familiar with all visiting rules, regulations, and procedures before your visit.

The following clothing items are generally not permitted but please consult the visiting policy for the specific facility as to what attire and items are permitted in the visiting room:

  • revealing shorts
  • halter tops
  • bathing suits
  • see-through garments of any type
  • low-cut blouses or dresses
  • backless tops
  • hats or caps
  • sleeveless garments
  • skirts two inches or more above the knee
  • dresses or skirts with a high-cut split in the back, front, or side
  • clothing that looks like inmate clothing (khaki or green military-type clothing)

Plan your trip

  • the prison location
  • the prison type
  • inmate visiting needs
  • availability of visiting space

The inmate you plan to visit should tell you what the visiting schedule is for that prison; however, if you have any questions please contact that particular facility .

General Visiting Hours

Camp general visiting hours, fsl general visiting hours.

conjugal visits louisiana

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Pros and Cons of Conjugal Visits

The reach of human rights does not end at the prison gates. After all, the primary goal of a healthy corrections system is the rehabilitation and successful reintegration of inmates into society.

That said, some rights remain controversial among legislators, prison reform advocates, and concerned citizens.

One such right is the right to conjugal visits . Some consider a marital visitation program as an inmate’s privilege. Others think it is an extension of their fundamental human rights.

The United States criminal justice system believes that conjugal visitation is a privilege to offenders and a right of their spouses.

Even though conjugal visitations play a crucial role in the lives of inmates and their loved ones, very few incarcerated persons can access them.

Say you or your spouse is in a correctional institution. In that case, you may find the sections below regarding conjugal visitation helpful in understanding the potential benefits and drawbacks of such visits for you and your family.

Additionally, you may learn more about the rules and procedures of conjugal visits. Our online site, LookUpInmate.org , contains detailed information regarding the state’s provisions for married inmates.

We also offer a free search tool to locate inmates in correctional facilities in the U.S.

Pros of Conjugal Visits

Generally, arguments favoring conjugal prison visits hinge on the program’s practical benefits to the inmates, their spouses, and prison facilities. Below are 11 potential advantages of conjugal visits.

Conjugal Visits Encourage Good Behavior

Whether an inmate receives a conjugal visit often depends on how well they behave in the penitentiary.

Prison governors use a “carrot and stick” (reward and punishment) approach to regulate inmates’ behavior.

Conjugal visits are one such carrot to keep incarcerated people following the facility’s rules. An inmate who misbehaves will likely not have in-person contact with their family.

The extended family visit is an effective motivator. Inmates have something to anticipate. After visits, they are more stable mentally. Their families also give moral support and help them stay on track.

Conjugal Visits Strengthen Familial Bonds

One of the most difficult challenges inmates face is their families falling apart. They will likely recidivate (reoffend) without solid social support when they get out.

Conjugal visits let offenders spend time with their spouses, hopefully keeping their marriages intact. Spending time together is particularly important in families with children.

The benefits do not only extend to the inmate. Studies show that conjugal visits support family cohesion.

Conjugal Visits Make Prison Life Safer

Most long-term prison inmates seek ways to gain privileges like conjugal visits. Consequently, they must refrain from harassing other prisoners, getting into fights, provoking violence, selling drugs, and other criminal activities.

Research from Florida International University indicated that prison systems allowing conjugal visits have fewer rapes and sexual assaults than those prohibiting such visits.

Reduced sex crimes have the extra benefit of decreasing the transmission of STDs (sexually transmitted diseases), like HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and HIV’s late-stage form, AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).

Conjugal Visits Results in Fewer Repeat Offenders

Since inmates can preserve family ties, they are likelier to live a healthy family life after release.

One study from the Journal of Criminal Justice showed that receiving visitation led to a 26% decrease in recidivism.

Visits with family strengthen bonds and give incarcerated individuals a reason to live after their release.

Conjugal Visits Offer Much-Needed Privacy

One of the most frustrating aspects of correctional facilities is the lack of privacy. In most cases, inmates must sleep and share the bathroom with their cellmates. Sometimes, they even shower in front of the correctional officers. Cameras and guards constantly observe their movements.

Spending time alone with your spouse, even briefly, might help improve inmates’ emotional and mental health.

Conjugal Visits Reduce Sexual Violence

Sexual violence includes various forms of abuse, such as rape, harassment, and sexual assault .

As shown above, conjugal visits can help reduce sexual violence in the prison setting. The states that do not allow conjugal visitation have a high sexual violence incidence rate.

In contrast, the region that allows conjugal visits has a lower rate of sexual crimes .

These outcomes suggest that conjugal and family visits can help reduce sex offenses in prison and the community.

Conjugal Visits Reduce the Risk of Sexually Transmitted Diseases

One of the most notable benefits of conjugal visits is protection from STDs, including HIV, chlamydia, and genital herpes.

Engaging in sexual relations with multiple partners can increase the chances of acquiring infectious diseases like HIV.

Conjugal Visits Reduce Recidivism

Recidivism refers to the tendency of the offender to repeat a crime. As mentioned above, conjugal visits help reduce the recidivism rate.

A simple explanation is that extended family visits remind the inmate that there’s life awaiting them beyond the prison bars.

These in-person meetings reinforce in their minds the thought that committing another crime is not worth sacrificing time with family.

Conjugal Visits Can Also Include Other Family Members

Visits do not just affect couples. Family visits also let inmates spend time with their children in less crowded areas. In some cases, grandparents, siblings, and cousins can all participate.

You’re Not Only Punishing Prisoners

Inmates aren’t the only ones who suffer from the lack of conjugal visits. Institutions that prohibit this type of visit as a punishment are also punishing the inmates’ spouses and children who did nothing wrong.

Some argue that this prohibition removes the inmate’s and their spouse’s reproductive rights.

Inmates Are Allowed to Keep Their Roles As Husbands or Wives

This advantage is critical for the family’s well-being. Prison can end the male inmate’s identity as a husband or the female inmate’s identity as a wife.

Conjugal visits help preserve the familial structure and stability of the incarcerated person and their spouse.

By recognizing and affirming their marital roles, conjugal visits contribute to rehabilitation by fostering responsibility, commitment, and accountability among inmates. This outcome can aid the inmate’s successful reintegration into society after release.

Cons of Conjugal Visits

Arguments against conjugal visitations often highlight the prison system’s lack of the budget and security level to facilitate this type of visit.

Below are nine potential drawbacks of conjugal visits.

There Are Some Safety Concerns

Although conjugal visits are a family affair, they can be relatively unsafe due to the lack of supervision in the visitation area. Still, some argue that criminal cases happening during visits are rare and should not drive public policy.

Conjugal Visits Are a Source of Contraband

People coming in from the outside to see their loved ones might smuggle illegal items, including drugs or concealed weapons.

That said, tight security often makes it difficult for inmates to smuggle items. While some facilities do not check visitors during visits, they might still subject the offenders to strip-search and drug tests.

Visits Are Not Entirely ‘Private’

Even though conjugal visits are primarily private, it does not mean daily prison routines do not take place. For example, prisoners must respond to routine ‘call-outs’ at their scheduled time. Guards checking in can also quickly ruin the mood if things get intimate.

Carrying Prohibited Items Poses a Risk

As indicated above, visits could be a risk for illicit activity. Visitors can bring illegal or banned items, including narcotics and weapons, guns, and other sharp objects that could injure fellow inmates.

Possible Escape Attempts

Officials cite escape attempts as one primary reason to end conjugal visits. They argue that some inmates take the opportunity to make escape plans. Consequently, some jurisdictions have discontinued the practice.

Risk of STDs

Though visits tend to decrease sexual violence, STDs remain a concern for some whenever sex is involved. These critics think inmates might bring STDs into prison with them.

Risk of Increased Cases of Pregnant Women and More Major Single Parents

Female inmates or visitors can become pregnant even after being supplied with contraceptives. This scenario can result in another single mother if the father is incarcerated for life.

The Programs Are Expensive

Many of the issues with conjugal visits are likely deflections from the most probable reason facilities end the program: lack of funds.

Several states have shut down these programs due to their high costs. Private spaces consume a lot of resources and space. The impulse to remove these programs may result from many prisons operating on low budgets.

What Is a Conjugal Visit?

Simply put, conjugal visitation refers to the visit by the husband or wife for a scheduled period to their incarcerated husband or wife. During this time, the couple receives limited privacy. Usually, this private moment involves sexual relations.

Inmates and visitors must submit applications to the prison system authorities to arrange an extended family or conjugal visit.

Here are the typical rules regarding such visitations:

  • The requesting inmate should have a decent prison record and no violent offenses.
  • Extended family visits often do not apply to inmates confined to low-security facilities.
  • Institutions do not allow convicted individuals who received sentences for child abuse or domestic violence conjugal visits.

Additionally, state or federal prisons determine eligible visitors. The visitor is usually a family member, has a record of inmate visitation to the facility (or a legitimate reason for not doing so), and must pass a background check.

Conjugal Visit : An Emerging Human Right

As indicated above, many people today view spousal visitation as an extension of the spouse’s conjugal rights.

While the visitation program is technically not a right, many countries today allow inmates extended, in-person contact with their loved ones.

Aside from the U.S., countries that allow conjugal visits may include the following:

  • Saudi Arabia

However, countries allowing conjugal visitations are rare, and most do not welcome extended family visits.

The U.S. is not the only country becoming more restrictive regarding conjugal visits. Northern Island and Great Britain have also restricted such visits.

That said, these countries permit home visits, emphasizing contact with the outside world to which the inmate will eventually return.

In addition, authorities often grant home visits to inmates with a few weeks to a few months remaining of a long sentence.

Meanwhile, countries like Germany allow conjugal visits following an extensive screening process.

Sex, Love, and Marriage Behind Bars

As expected, conjugal visits provoke discussion around the complex relationship of sex, love, and marriage behind bars.

Advocates argue that these visits can improve bonds between inmates and reduce recidivism rates, allowing them to develop stronger bonds.

In contrast, critics express concerns regarding the potential for exploitation, security threats, and the cost of facilitating intimate encounters for incarcerated persons.

Excellent institutions find the intricate balance between human rights, rehabilitation initiatives, and the practical realities of managing correctional systems.

Some incarcerated individuals use the metaphor of “heaven” to depict the profound sense of ease and happiness they encounter when they can physically reconnect with their spouse during conjugal visits.

The joy of companionship, intimacy, and touch with the opposite sex is so rare that inmates go to great lengths to avoid conflict and bad encounters.

Their Dark Origins

Conjugal visits may have originated in 1918 at Parchman Farm, a boot camp in Mississippi .

Such visitations were a haphazard, paternalistic reward system for Black prisoners. Specifically, these visits mean these people may have sexual intercourse on a given Sunday in exchange for their hard work in prison.

This way, the concept of conjugal visits derives from racist premises.

For instance, prison administrators believed allowing Black individuals to participate in lawful sexual activities would increase their productivity.

The officers also believed Black men had higher sex drives than white men. Consequently, buses packed with women arrived every weekend to get intimate with the Black offenders.

Authorities used conjugal visits to “support” Black inmates through a six-day workweek of physically and mentally demanding work.

However, due to various advocacy groups, conjugal visits now last longer with the family.

Even the Parchman Farm improved during the 1960s. For example, institutions allowed frequent visits, initiated furlough programs, and built cabins so inmates could spend time alone with their spouses.

A Misconception With Conjugal Visits

Conjugal visits are more than just sexual encounters and “family visits,” meaning children can stay overnight.

For instance, a spouse or partner in Connecticut cannot enter the facility without the inmate’s child.

In the state, approximately a third of lengthy visits are between spouses.

Are Conjugal Visits Beneficial?

The answer to this question depends on what factor you emphasize. If the prison system is not corrupt and the inmate complies with visitation conditions, the program will likely produce favorable outcomes.

Overall, research is still ongoing regarding the effectiveness of conjugal visits.

How Many States Still Allow Conjugal Visits? What States in the U.S. Allow Conjugal Visits?

Today, only four states have rules that allow extended visits: New York, Washington, California, and Connecticut.

However, each state in the United States has various rules regarding conjugal visitations, or “extended family visits.”

A 1981 report stated that the following states were the only regions in the U.S. that had conjugal visitation programs for inmates:

  • South Carolina
  • Mississippi

Following the report, various states changed their position regarding conjugal visits. For instance, at the beginning of 2000, South Carolina and Minnesota were off the list, and New Mexico and Connecticut had extended visitation policies.

However, despite being the first state to initiate conjugal visitation programs in the U.S., the Department of Corrections in Mississippi ended the privilege in 2016.

Do You Get Conjugal Visits on Death Row?

Death row inmates have no right to conjugal visits, even in states that do it for other convicts.

For example, California ’s state prisons only allow “condemned” (incarcerated people on death row) visits using a secured booth and always require the incarcerated individual to be escorted and handcuffed.

Some of these incarcerated persons on death row may only receive non-contact visits.

1. Conjugal Visitation: Prisoner’s Privilege or Spouse’s Right https://www.ojp.gov/ncjrs/virtual-library/abstracts/conjugal-visitation-prisoners-privilege-or-spouses-right 2. Benefits and risks of conjugal visits in prison: A systematic literature review https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/cbm.2215 3. Research Finds that Conjugal Visits Correlate with Fewer Sexual Assaults https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/2014/may/19/research-finds-conjugal-visits-correlate-fewer-sexual-assaults/ 4. The effect of prison visitation on reentry success: A meta-analysis https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0047235216300575 5. Evolution of Conjugal Visiting in Mississippi https://www.ojp.gov/ncjrs/virtual-library/abstracts/evolution-conjugal-visiting-mississippi 6. Conjugal Visits https://www.themarshallproject.org/2015/02/11/conjugal-visits 7. This Couple Wants You to Know That Conjugal Visits are Only Legal in 4 States https://scalawagmagazine.org/2022/06/conjugal-visits/ 8. Conjugal Visitation in American Prisons Today https://www.ojp.gov/ncjrs/virtual-library/abstracts/conjugal-visitation-american-prisons-today 9. Mississippi First to Begin Conjugal Visits, Latest to End Them https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/2016/jan/11/mississippi-first-begin-conjugal-visits-latest-end-them/ 10. Types of Visits https://www.cdcr.ca.gov/visitors/types-of-visits/

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As of January of 2019, there are four U.S. states that allow prison conjugal visits within their prison systems: California, Connecticut, New York and Washington. 

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COMMENTS

  1. States That Allow Conjugal Visits

    In 1993, 17 states had conjugal visitation programs. By the 2000s, that number was down to six, with only California, Connecticut, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, and Washington allowing such visits. And by 2015, Mississippi and New Mexico eliminated their programs. For the most part, states no longer refer to "conjugal" visits.

  2. Conjugal Visit Laws by State 2024

    Conjugal visits began as a way for an incarcerated partner to spend private time with their domestic partner, spouse, or life partner. Historically, these were granted as a result of mental health as well as some rights that have since been argued in court. For example, cases have gone to the Supreme Court which have been filed as visits being ...

  3. Which states allow conjugal visits?

    There are only four U.S. states that currently allow conjugal visits, often called "extended" or "family" visits: California, Connecticut, New York, and Washington. Some people say Connecticut's program doesn't count though, when it comes to conjugals—and the Connecticut Department of Corrections agrees. Their family visit program is ...

  4. The Process and Regulations for Conducting Conjugal Visits in ...

    Conjugal visits started back in the 20th century in the United States. The very first conjugal visit (at least the first documented) was in Mississippi in 1918. These visits were initially designed to help maintain family ties. They also helped reduce sexual tensions in prison. After Mississippi started a program, other states followed.

  5. What States Allow Conjugal Visits?

    Only Four States Still Allow Conjugal Visits. As of 2015, the only states allowing conjugal visits are California, New York, Washington, and Connecticut. Mississippi and New Mexico also had conjugal visit policies before. However, Mississippi halted allowing these visits on February 1, 2014, and New Mexico did the same on May 1, 2014.

  6. Controversy and Conjugal Visits

    Conjugal visits, the editors of The Bridge wrote, are "a controversial issue, now quite in the spotlight," thanks to their implementation at Parchman Farm in Mississippi in 1965. ... Louisiana State Penitentiary The Conjugal Visit at Mississippi State Penitentiary. By: Columbus B. Hopper The Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology, and Police ...

  7. Louisiana prisons will allow family visits for the first time in a year

    Louisiana will start to allow visits from inmates' families and loved ones at state prisons again Saturday, though attorneys and volunteers will still be prohibited from coming to the correctional facilities, according to the Department of Corrections. Inmates haven't been able to see their families in person in at least 12 months.

  8. Conjugal visit

    A conjugal visit is a scheduled period in which an inmate of a prison or jail is permitted to spend several hours or days in private with a visitor. The visitor is usually their legal spouse. The generally recognized basis for permitting such visits in modern times is to preserve family bonds and increase the chances of success for a prisoner's eventual return to ordinary life after release ...

  9. So What are the Actual Rules with Conjugal Visits and How Did They Get

    In fact, in New York, it's reported that around 40% of conjugal visits don't include a spouse or the like, rather often just children and other loved ones. For this reason, these visits are usually officially called things like "Extended Family Visits" or, in New York, the "Family Reunion Program". As one California inmate summed up ...

  10. The Origin of Conjugal Visits in America

    The first state to legalize conjugal visits in America was Mississippi in 1965, though they had been informally allowed at the Mississippi State Penitentiary (Parchman Farm) long before ...

  11. Conjugal Visits: Costly And Perpetuate Single Parenting? : NPR

    Mississippi was the first state in the country to offer prisoners conjugal visits. Now the state is set to end the program, citing high costs as the main reason. Host Michel Martin speaks with ...

  12. How To Visit An Inmate In Prison

    Do not put on a dress that resembles the inmate's clothes in design or color, and that of the staff. Do not visit in medical scrubs or any sort of uniform, as this may pose a threat to the facility's security. You must dress in shirts and put on shoes. Clothes that expose sensitive parts of the body are prohibited.

  13. What is a Conjugal Visit?

    Conjugal visits are private periods an inmate spends with a spouse. The purpose behind such visits is to permit inmates to have intimate contact with their partners, including sexual intercourse. On the other hand, the following list includes individuals who can visit eligible inmates during non-conjugal family visitations: Adoptive parents.

  14. What is a conjugal visit?

    Conjugal visits are private visits that allow married couples to spend time alone, engaging in companionship and sexual relations. They are also for families to reunite (up to three family members), where children and siblings can be a part of the visit, as well (in Connecticut, children are required to be part of the conjugal visit). They are ...

  15. 9 Arresting Facts About Conjugal Visits

    IN 2010, A GERMAN PRISONER USED HIS UNSUPERVISED CONJUGAL VISIT TO MURDER HIS VISITOR. In April 2010, a 50-year-old inmate killed his 46-year-old girlfriend during a conjugal visit in a German prison.

  16. Benefits and risks of conjugal visits in prison: A systematic

    Imprisonment impacts on lives beyond the prisoner's. In particular, family and intimate relationships are affected. Only some countries permit private conjugal visits in prison between a prisoner and community living partner. Aims. Our aim was to find evidence from published international literature on the safety, benefits or harms of such visits.

  17. An extraordinary story of forgiveness: from life without parole to

    "The same language was used nationwide to curtail furloughs and conjugal visits, which conservatives portrayed as extravagant indulgences. ... The number of commutations signed by Louisiana ...

  18. BOP: How to visit a federal inmate

    The Federal Bureau of Prisons does not permit conjugal visits. Plan your trip. Find out when you can visit and get directions to the facility. Visiting Schedules All institutions have visiting hours on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays; and most have them at other times during the week. Weekends are the most popular time to visit so prisons may ...

  19. Pros and Cons of Conjugal Visits

    Conjugal Visits Encourage Good Behavior. Whether an inmate receives a conjugal visit often depends on how well they behave in the penitentiary. Prison governors use a "carrot and stick" (reward and punishment) approach to regulate inmates' behavior. Conjugal visits are one such carrot to keep incarcerated people following the facility's ...

  20. Conjugal Association in Prison: Issues and Perspectives

    Abstract. The practice of conjugal association in United States prisons has be come a controversial issue among policy makers in correction. Seven states now have programs allowing families to visit inmates in private, and to engage in sexual activity with their spouses on prison grounds. This paper describes conjugal association programs now ...

  21. Mississippi will end conjugal visits, make its notorious prisons even

    The Clarion Ledger says Mississippi lawmakers briefly considered banning conjugal visits in the late 1970s, but a warden advised them to "have a SWAT team on standby" if they did.

  22. What jails or prisons allow conjugal visits?

    What jails or prisons allow conjugal visits? As of January of 2019, there are four U.S. states that allow prison conjugal visits within their prison systems: California, Connecticut, New York and Washington. There are no jails that allow conjugal visits. To find out how to visit someone you know, begin your search for an inmate or arrestee here:

  23. Conjugal Visits in Prison Discourse

    Keywords: conjugal visits, conjugal rights, African prisons, rehabilitation, prisoners' rights 1 Introduction Conjugal rights issue in prisons has remained an old debate which has resurged in the 2000s in many African countries (e.g. BBC News, 2000; Lusaka Times, 2018; Majaliwa, 2012; Mbewe, 2016; Tapfumaneyi, 2019).

  24. Louisiana considers home visits to reduce infant mortality

    The legislation would require Medicaid to cover home visits for newborns, which are proven to help reduce infant mortality. Louisiana's programs currently reach only 10% of newborns on Medicaid ...