Conjugal Visits - Iowa - Keep family bonds high and keep families together

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Conjugal visits, also referred to as Family Extended Visits should be allowed in state prisons. When one thinks about it, families are torn apart when their spouse, or their father/mother are taken from them and placed in prison. One way to help keep that family bond is through these visits. It is not always about the sexual aspect of the visit, but it does help keep spouses faithful while their significant other is locked up. Some husbands/wives are only locked up for a few months, while others are gone for years. This is a very life struggling change for the family. The Department of Corrections encourages visits, communication, and being there for the person that is in prison, but that only does so much. With our current system, how many or our inmates are locked up and honestly innocent? It seems like if we do not have the money to fight the charges, you end up in prison, even if you did not do anything, but for fear of something worse happening you take a plea or just say "yep I did it".

So my goal is to hopefully, get something established to help get conjugal visits in Iowa state prisons. In hopes to help keep family ties stronger during the inmates sentence. Wives, husbands, and children are not use to living apart, and these things happen so fast, there is really no time to adjust. As time goes on, many inmates significant other cheats or leaves them due to the lack of intimacy and privacy. 

Not only will the conjugal visits help with family bonds, but could also reduce rapes and sexual assaults in prisons. The Florida International University found in a study they conducted on state prison systems that allowed conjugal visits there were fewer rapes and sexual assaults reported than those where the visits were prohibited. Their study was done over a three year period from 2004-2006, in the five states that allowed conjugal visits at the time -- California, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York and Washington. There was an average rate of 226 incidents per 100,000 prisoners of sexual violence in state prison systems that did not allow conjugal visits compared to 57 per 100,000 incidents in the five states that allowed conjugal visits. "The FIU researchers said the effect of conjugal visitation in reducing sexual assaults among prisoners should encourage more states to consider allowing such visits, which the study noted to have other positive effects. For example, conjugal visits, also known as family visits, help "improved the functioning of a marriage by maintaining an inmates role as husband or wife, improve the inmate's behavior while incarcerated, counter the effects of prisonization, and improve post-release success by enhancing the inmate's ability to maintain ties with his or her family""(Prison Legal News, 2014) Not only this, but since conjugal visits was reported to have reduced homosexual activity, and AIDS is often spread through homosexual activity, conjugal visits may help in reducing the spread of AIDS in prison.

 In 2014, Mississippi joined the 45 states that prohibited conjugal visits due to budget issues and concerns about babies being born as a possible result of the visits. The costs were high according to Mississippi DOC Commissioner Christopher B. Epps, and they were concerned about babies being raised in a single parent home. However, out of 22,000 prisoners in Mississippi, only 155 were allowed conjugal visits in fiscal year 2013.  Epps felt the benefits of the program did not out weigh the costs.  However, the following are how some of the spouses felt about the program being cut.

Tina Perry, 49, who had been visiting her incarcerated husband every few months for the past eight years, said prisoners' spouses should not be forced to suffer any more than they already do, and the state should not deprive them of something that is an infrequent part of their relationship.

Some spouses argued it's not about the sex but rather about privacy. "The little 60 minutes isn't a lot of time, but I appreciate it because we can just talk and hold each other and be with each other," said Ebony Fisher, 25, who would drive nearly three hours to see her husband, who is serving a 60-year sentence. But Fisher admitted that the end of conjugal visits mean no more children for the couple. "Let me have that option," She said, "I feel like they are taking away my choice".

"You never get husband and wife time" during regular visits, noted Amy Parsons, who drove eight hours for a one-hour conjugal visit with her husband, who is not due to be released until 2022.

"It's not romantic, but it doesn't matter," she said. "I just want people to realize it's about alone time with your husband. I understand they are in there for a reason. Obviously they did something wrong. But they are human, too. So are we."

Even prison officials conceded that the visits were a deterrent to unruly behavior among prisoners. "Conjugal visits have been a privilege," noted Mississippi DOC spokeswoman Tara Booth. "So in that sense, it has, as other internal opportunities, helped to maintain order".

 California and New York refer to conjugal visits as family visits and they are designed to help keep families together in an environment that approximates home. Some research has shown that family visits can help prisoners better integrate back into the mainstream after their release. Visits can last anywhere from 24 hours to three days. The visits are spent in small apartments or trailers, usually with children and grandparents, and visitors bring their own food and sometimes have barbecues. They are largely left alone by the prison guards.In a study cite by Yale law students in a 2012 review found that family visitation programs showed the programs worked as a powerful incentive for good behavior, helped reduce sexual activity among prisoners and help strengthen families.

Conjugal visit may also help reduce divorce rates. Incarceration is known to increase divorce rates. Studies consistently have shown that incarceration during marriage is correlated with higher divorce rates.  IF the spouse is incarcerated before marriage, the couple isn't anymore likely to split up, but when its is a spouse that is incarcerated during the marriage the odds of divorce increase. Even after the spouses release from prison, the marriage is still at risk.  It seems the longer the inmate is in prison, the more likely the marriage is to fail. A recent study found that each year of incarceration increases when odds that the inmate's marriage will end in a divorce by an average of 32 percent. Even if the spouse in incarcerated briefly it is bad for the marriage, and due to being in jail or prison are more likely to end up divorced. Some have reported their marriages are less loving and more violent after being incarcerated than they were before.

 It is all about making the inmates prison sentence as easy as possible, and their transition a success when they are released. Conjugal visits or family visits can help in keep that family bond strong, while keeping the marriage together. Even if its just an hour, its the "quality time" alone that matters. DOC is about family being important to an inmates rehabilitation, so lets make that a priority. 

It not like we are asking for it all to be set without rules or regulations. Even if there needs to be a small fee d by the spouse, it can be a success and help in keeping families strong during the time they are apart. This is something that needs regulations, rules, and policies in place to make it a success.




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