A conjugal visit is a scheduled extended visit during which an inmate of a prison is permitted to spend several hours or days in private, usually with a legal spouse. While the parties may engage in sexual intercourse, the generally recognized basis for permitting such a visit in modern times is to preserve family bonds and increase the chances of success for a prisoner's eventual return to life outside prison.
The visit will usually take place in a structure provided for that purpose, such as a trailer or small cabin. Supplies such as soap, condoms, tissues, sheets, pillows, and towels may be provided.
In the United States
In the United States, inmates must meet certain requirements
to qualify for this privilege, for example, no violation of the rules in the last six months, history of good behavior, and so on. Those imprisoned in medium or maximum security facilities and inmates on death row
are not permitted conjugal visits.
The visitor may be required to undergo a background check, and the inmate must also be free of any sexually transmitted diseases. As a matter of procedure, both visitor and inmate are searched before and after the visit, to ensure that the visitor has not attempted to smuggle any items in or out of the facility.
Over the last 40 years, most new prisons included special buildings specifically designed for "Sunday visits." Today, conjugal visitation programs, also known as the Extended Family Visit, survive in only seven states: California, Connecticut, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, Washington and South Dakota.
In June 2007, California's Department of Corrections announced it would allow same-sex conjugal visits. The policy was enacted to comply with a 2005 state law requiring state agencies to give the same rights to domestic partners that heterosexual couples receive. The new rules allow for visits only by registered domestic partners who are not themselves incarcerated. Further, the domestic partnership must have been established before the prisoner was incarcerated.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons does not allow conjugal visits.
Around the world
- France and Canada allow prisoners who have earned the right to a conjugal visit to stay in decorated home-like apartments during extended visits.
- In the Russian penal system, since a campaign of prison reform that began in 2001, well-behaved prisoners are granted an eighteen-day holiday furlough from incarceration to see loved ones. Prisoners also get extended on-site family visits, approximately once per month.
- In Brazil, male prisoners are eligible to be granted conjugal visits for both heterosexual and homosexual relationships, while women's conjugal visits are tightly regulated, if granted at all.
- In July 2007, the prison system in Mexico City has begun to allow gay prisoners to have conjugal visits from their partners, on the basis of a 2003 law which bans discrimination based on sexual orientation.
- Neither the English, Scottish nor Irish prison system allows conjugal visits, and political pressure to punish criminals makes it a difficult issue to suggest. However, home visits, with a greater emphasis on building other links with the outside world to which the prisoner will be returned, are allowed.
- Australia: Conjugal visits, like the English system on which it is based, are not allowed. But a very lenient visitation system as well as the likeliness a sentence will be reduced or parole granted very early remove any general issue surrounding it.
- Denmark: Conjugal visits have been allowed for years. The new prison in Jutland "Statsfængslet Østjylland" (Stateprison EastJutland) prisons have apartments for couples, where inmates who have been sentenced to more than 8 years in prison can have visitation for 47 hours per visit.
- Saudi Arabia: Conjugal visits have been allowed for years.
- Cuba: Conjugal visits have been allowed for years. Every prisoner is given at least four family or conjugal visits per year.