1974, Lyons v. Gilligan was one of the first cases in the United
States to decide the fate of conjugal visits for prisoners.
the time, the US District Court for the Northern District of
Ohio ruled that husbands have no constitutional right to have
sexual relations with their wives while incarcerated.
drama and legal battles associated with conjugal visits began
to gain traction after this ruling, and close to 40 years later,
the laws have evolved in several states.
of the ruling in Lyons v. Gilligan argue that sex should not
be a right granted in prison, and by allowing a convicted felon
to have sexual relations -- or, any relation with a free civilian
in an unsupervised environment -- there is an increased chance
of contraband entering and leaving the prison, in addition to
violence and the spread of diseases.
of course, are not present while sexual intercourse is taking
to an article by Mother Jones, the STD rate among American prisoners
is quite shocking.
to the general population, disease rates in US prisons are 490%
higher for HIV, 500% higher for AIDS, 400% higher for tuberculosis
and 2,000% higher for hepatitis C.
addition, less than one percent of prisons dispense condoms.
some states, there has been an effort to help reduce the instances
of prisoner rape, as 200,000 men are reportedly being raped
each year while incarcerated according to the group Stop Prisoner
the high rate of reported rape and the shocking statistics regarding
sexually transmitted diseases mean that conjugal visits should
be allowed? Should those convicted of murder and other violent
crimes be allowed sexual trysts while serving time?
visits -- also known as an ‘extended family visits’
-- are currently allowed, in some form, in eight states: California,
Colorado, Connecticut, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, Washington
just as the LGBT rights movement is progressing throughout the
country, it is also progressing behind bars.
the past decade, two states, California and New York, implemented
conjugal visits for homosexual prisoners.
California Department of Corrections announced that it would
allow conjugal visits for those of the same gender in June 2007.
policy, which was enacted after consideration of a 2005 California
law, required domestic partners -- both same-sex and heterosexual
individuals -- to receive the same rights as straight couples
who are married.
also allows overnight visits with family, which was extended
to LGBT inmates.
an interview with NBC News, Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman for
the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation,
said, “Historically, these types of requests were denied.
Homosexuality is a touchy subject in prison. We don’t
want people to come to harm in prisons, but we need to comply
with the law.”
2008, then Governor David Patterson ordered New York state agencies
to recognize same-sex marriages and civil unions that were performed
in other states.
to California, it was decided that homosexual prisoners were
not to be discriminated against; however, same-sex conjugal
visits were not allowed until 2011.
an April 2011 interview with The Daily News, Peter Cutler, a
spokesman for the Department of Correctional Services, said
that New York was allowed these type of conjugal visits, but
he was unsure on how it took close to three years for the regulation
to be finalized.
they seek a furlough based on the partner, it’s likely
it would be granted,” Cutler said.
states, such as Mississippi, specifically state that the visits
are for legally married, heterosexual couples only.
Mississippi State Of Corrections website states that “conjugal
visits are only allowed to eligible legally married inmates
(married is defined as the union of a man and a woman). The
spouse of the inmate must provide proof of marriage. Common
law marriages are not considered legal marriages as defined
by MDOC, and therefore do not qualify for conjugal visit privileges.”
Mississippi was the first state to allow conjugal visits.
the world, the issue of conjugal visits is also controversial;
in October 2012, it was reported that Joran van der Sloot --
currently in prison for the murder of Stephany Flores and the
prime suspect in the 2005 disappearance of American teen Natalee
Holloway in Aruba -- had impregnated Leydi Figueroa Uceda.
it was reported that Sloot and Uceda, who is sometimes cited
as his girlfriend, were intimate during an unsupervised prison
visit, it was noted by Yahoo News that “It was not clear
whether that is allowed or possible under Peruvian prison rules.”
murderer impregnated a woman while incarcerated? Stories like
that, while few and far between, help put the occurrence of
conjugal visits into perspective.
the United States, there are many instances where those guilty
of murder are also allowed to get down and dirty.
David Chapman, the convicted killer of John Lennon, is repeatedly
approved for these visits with his wife; at times spending 48
hours together in a trailer at Attica Correction Facility in
New York state.
United States Federal Bureau of Prisons does not comply with
the state qualifications of these visits, but if one is in a
state where conjugal visits are allowed, both the prisoner and
the visitor must meet certain qualifications in order for the
meeting to take place. The prisoner must be housed in a minimum
or medium security facility, show proof of marriage and earn
the visits through good behaviour.
terrible to learn about prison rape, sexual frustration that
spawns violence and the STD rates that seem to be raging out
of control, but when one commits harm against another individual
and ends up behind bars, I find it hard to feel sympathy for
them not being allowed to have sex. The results of studies intended
to determine a relationship between prison violence and conjugal
visitation have been inconclusive. According to a 2002 study
by Georgia State University, allowing conjugal visits was not
shown to reduce prison violence in Mississippi. The purpose
of such visitation, the study says, is “to maintain the
nuclear family and lessen the emotional stress of an inmate’s
the states that do allow conjugal visits, but bar access to
homosexual inmates, the state laws should be reconsidered and
they, much to the tune of California and New York, should treat
all prisoners equally; whether one believes conjugal visits
are acceptable or not.
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