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Conjugal Visitation in American Prisons Today

NCJ Number
Journal of Family Law Volume: 19 Issue: 2 Dated: (1980-81) Pages: 313-330
S C Esposito
Date Published
18 pages
The current status of the concept of conjugal visitation is examined by means of a review of case law and various suggested constitutional approaches, a description of programs currently in existence, and a report of a survey of chief correctional officials throughout the Nation.
American courts have almost unanimously refused to declare that any class of incarcerated persons is entitled to conjugal visitation rights. Only one court decision has declared that any such right exists. However, demands are still made in the courts for the implementation of conjugal visitation programs. Evolving standards of what constitutes cruel and unusual punishment or fundamental rights might lead to a decision supporting a right to conjugal visitation. Programs which allow an opportunity for a conjugal visit exist in five States: Mississippi, New York, California, South Carolina, and Minnesota. Of the 54 correctional officials surveyed to determine their attitudes toward conjugal visitation programs, 42 responded to a mailed questionnaire containing 5 questions. Results indicated that a growing number of correctional officials appear to support the implementation of some type of program allowing for the continuation of conjugal relations between inmate and spouse. Any new programs almost certainly will emphasize the total family relationship rather than just the husband-wife relationship, as there is wider acceptance of family visitation programs than solely of conjugal visitation. It seems unlikely that courts will order conjugal or family visitation programs based on some general constitutional right. Footnotes are provided.


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