Conjugal Visits Poster 02

How Conjugal Visits Work

Mississippi is about to get rid of them, but (surprise, surprise) they're big in Brazil

Starting next month, there will be a little less sex in Mississippi prisons—at least, the sanctioned kind.

America’s first state to introduce conjugal visits—and even provide the prostitutes—is about to get rid of them. The decision has elicited protests from prisoners’ families and rights groups that say the visitations, though infrequent, promote family bonds and improve prisoner morale.


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Mississippi’s Department of Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps says the program has become too costly, and the state also has to worry about babies being conceived while a parent is behind bars. Conjugal visit programs in the U.S. have been on the decline in recent decades: In 1993, 17 states had conjugal programs; now, only a half-dozen offer them.

Here’s what you need to know about them:


November 22, 1993 will mark the 30th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy, and Texas Governor John Connally ride through Dallas moments before Kennedy was assassinated, November 22, 1963 - RTXEYOL 

WHICH STATES HAVE THEM? Only six states currently allow conjugal visits, otherwise known as extended family visits, and they don’t exist in the federal prison system. The states are California, Connecticut, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York and Washington.


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WHO’S ELIGIBLE? Conjugal visits can only happen in medium- or lesser-security prisons. Though the rules vary from state to state, in general, prisoners must apply for the privilege and are ineligible if they’ve committed any of dozens of infractions, including fighting and swearing, in the past six months. Before the visit is granted, the prisoner must pass a health screening. In Mississippi and California, for example, an inmate must be legally married.

HOW OFTEN CAN PRISONERS HAVE THEM? Extended family visits, in general, come in three flavors: six hours, 12 hours and 24 hours, an option only available to inmates with the best records and who are within one year of release. These visits are allowed on average once or twice a year for eligible convicts.

WHERE DO THEY TAKE PLACE? They happen in private, apartment-style settings within the prison walls, and the rooms come with sheets, condoms, soap and towels. In 2010, former New York Gov. David Paterson tried to earmark $800,000 for two double-wide trailers for conjugal and family visits at the Five Points Correctional Facility in Romulus, Seneca County, but the plan never happened.

CAN SAME-SEX COUPLES TAKE PART? California in 2007 made conjugal visits available to same-sex couples who are married or in a civil union. New York did the same in 2011.

ARE THEY FREE FOR THE PRISONERS? Mostly yes, but in Washington state, the participation fee was recently raised to $10 per night from $5. Food is not provided.

WHEN DID CONJUGAL VISITS START? Conjugal visits in the United States originated in Mississippi. The first program dates back to the early 1900s when a warden at Mississippi State Penitentiary introduced conjugal visits as an incentive for the (mostly black) inmates to work harder in the prison’s farming industry, according to lawyer Patrick Rodgers. On Sunday afternoons, the prisons brought in prostitutes who charged 50 cents for their services. ”Sex was used as the proverbial dangling carrot for increasing inmate productivity,” Rodgers says.

DO OTHER COUNTRIES HAVE THEM TOO? The U.S. isn’t alone in its increasingly stingy attitude towards conjugal visits. Great Britain and Northern Ireland do not allow them. Meantime, Germany allows prisoners to apply for conjugal visits but screening is tough. In 2010, an inmate murdered his girlfriend and attempted suicide during a visit, leading to a change in rules and tightened security at correctional facilities.

WHICH COUNTRIES HAVE THE MOST LIBERAL POLICIES ON CONJUGAL VISITS? In countries like Venezuela and Brazil, unmarried persons are allowed weekly “visits.” In Colombia, where not all prisoners receive a cell and bed because of overcrowding, conjugal visits are routine. About 3,500 women arrive at prisons each Sunday to meet intimately with their husbands or boyfriends.

WHY IS MISSISSIPPI GETTING RID OF THEM? Mississippi’s Department of Corrections Commissioner Epps says it was because of the “costs associated with the staff’s time, having to escort inmates to and from the location, supervising personal hygiene and the upkeep of the building.” But only 155 inmates in Mississippi were allowed such visits in the fiscal year 2012-13. There are 22,000 inmates in the state prison system, according to corrections records.

Respond Now
  • This “article” is riddled with misinformation. Maximum security inmates in CA are permitted family visits. They are not provided sheets, soap and condoms– the wife (legally wed, tons of hoop jumping, at a max of four times a year) must provide the items listed from outside the prison and the food she buys– from the prison– is low quality and overpriced. This isn’t the Ritz San Quentin style. If taxpayers gave two shakes about keeping the number of inmates down, they’d vote out bad leadership and invest in educations and programs, like Family Visits, which teach our citizens how to improve. The ignorance around this subject is unebelievable.

  • In New Mexico, we have a convicted murder/rapist who has married, then conceived a family while behind bars for life. His wife dosen’t work and his children are supported by the taxpayers. Our Republican governor, Susana Martinez has a problem with this and is called a bigot and far worse from the party of Satan (Democrats).

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    • That’s one example out of hundreds. We are not all on welfare no matter what the government would like you to think.

  • You’re not correct about who is elgible in New York. I’m a woman who has this important privilege in New York. My husband has been in prison in a maximim security prison in New York state for the last 20 years with a life sentence. We are allowed 44 hours every 45 days.

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    • A “privilege” important to who – you, or the taxpayers of New York?

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      • It’s proven tool in aid in recividism. Man that take part in the program return to prison at a rate of 17% those who do not take part in the program return 68% more often. So I take it you like locking more people up costing millions more than the small amount it costs the program. The trailers are a capital expense paid years ago. The small amount of electricity used. The real cost is the correctional officers. So maybe they can terminate the program and fire some guards to reduce payroll.

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