A prison official in Australia said earlier this week prisoner conjugal visits can lower recidivism rates. Does allowing prisoners to regularly have sex reduce recidivism and rape and improve relationships?
At Australia Capital Territory’s (ACT) new prison, the Alexander Maconochie Centre, Corrections Minister John Hargreaves maintains this is good policy in that it helps prisoners maintain family relationships. He also declares it helps reduce prisoner recidivism rates. Hargreaves said, "One of the biggest problems of avoiding recidivism, is the restoration of the relationship between a prisoner and his partner when they come out," he said.
"If in fact that relationship on an emotional level is maintained throughout the period of incarceration, then we will actually have restored that family."
In some places in the United States inmates are allowed conjugal visits as well. In Mississippi conjugal visits are allowed under certain conditions. Inmates must be legally married and provide evidence of marriage. Common law relationships aren’t considered legal marriages. In addition inmates must be at minimum custody levels and have an acceptable level of good behavior, with no rule infraction in the six months prior to a visit.
Not every state in the United States or country in the world allows conjugal visits or sex for inmates with mates while in jail. Some countries believe inmates should not have that kind of privilege of sexual pleasure, even if they are legally married. Human rights activists consider the family bond important and encourage prisons to adopt rules for conjugal visits.
Interestingly enough, it isn’t necessarily the more liberal or permissive cultures that are on the front lines of allowing inmates to have sex with spouses in prison. Conjugal visits have been allowed for years in Saudi Arabia, but according to the Guardian countries like England, Scotland and Ireland do not, although home visits are allowed. In Brazil conjugal visits are allowed for both homosexuals and heterosexuals as does Mexico City. In Israel the assassin of Yitzhak Rabin fathered a child in prison.
In 2007 Fox News reported California allows both homosexual and heterosexual conjugal visits. These visits came after a lawsuit emphasizing equal rights for homosexuals that included of sex with partners in prison. This is in spite of the fact that Proposition 8 in California prohibits gay marriage.
Mike Farrell, long-time advocate of prison reform, maintains conjugal visits should be allowed as part of humane treatment. This past week he declared it to be important in reflecting a more enlightened approach to the treatment of prisoners that he believes would help reduce tensions and violence such as rape in prison. But does it reduce recidivism?
According to experts, conjugal visits have mixed results. Some believe the costs outweigh the benefits but most believe the practice helps the family and reduces recidivism. Research at Florida State University found “visitation reduces and delays recidivism.”
Given the benefits, one wonders if the practice of conjugal visits will increase and whether it will include benefits for both homosexuals as well as heterosexuals as more and more states enact same-sex marriage laws.