Turns out a lifetime of hearing conjugal visit jokes doesn’t mean that we actually know anything about the reality of conjugal visits.
The US has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world, and yet sometimes it seems most of us know very little about the prison system besides what we’ve seen on Orange Is The New Black. Maybe your high school, like mine, brought a political science class to visit a local prison, where you learned that you could not wear your nose ring into a prison. Vocativ did an excellent piece on conjugal visits and, surprise, turns out a lifetime of hearing conjugal visit jokes doesn’t mean that we actually know anything about the reality of conjugal visits.
1. In 1993, 17 states in the US offered conjugal visits. Now, only six states do: California, Connecticut, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York and Washington. And Mississippi is about to phase them out.
2. Conjugal visits only take place in medium or low security prisons, and the inmate must apply for the visits, pass a health screening, and have gone six months without any infractions – including swearing – to be eligible.
3. Mississippi was also the first state to provide conjugal visits, in the early 1900s. Prostitutes were brought in on Sunday afternoons, as an incentive for inmates to be more productive laboring on the prison’s farm. A visit cost 50 cents.
4. Venezuela and Brazil allow inmates weekly visits, and conjugal visits are perfectly normal in Colombia, where every Sunday 3,500 women arrive at prisons to meet with their partner.
5. Same-sex couples who are married or in a civil union can have conjugal visits in New York and California.
6. In Washington State, conjugal visits aren’t free: the participation fee for prisoners was recently raised from $5 to $10.
7. Mississippi is getting rid of conjugal visits due to expense and strains on prison staff’s time, though only 155 out of 22,000 prisoners in the state’s system were allowed visits.
8. Arrested Development got the setting of conjugal visits right: they take place in “private, apartment-style settings within the prison walls, and the rooms come with sheets, condoms, soap and towels.” In New York, former Governor David Paterson tried to get two trailers for conjugal visits at a NY state prison. It didn’t happen, but we can presume other states use trailers as well.
9. Some inmates, who have excellent records and within a year of release, can have “extended family visits” of up to 24 hours.