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The Effects of Conjugal Visits On Mississippi Inmates.

Conjugal visitation Noun 1. conjugal visitation - the legal right in a prison for the inmate and spouse to have sexual intercourse
conjugal visitation right

legal right - a right based in law
 programs allow inmates and their spouses personal time together on prison grounds during which they may engage in sexual intercourse sexual intercourse
 or coitus or copulation

Act in which the male reproductive organ enters the female reproductive tract (see reproductive system).
 (Hensley, Rutland, Gray-Ray and Durant, forthcoming; Rutland, 1995; Hopper, 1989, 1969; Kent, 1975). In recent years, these programs have become one of the most debated topics within corrections. Public pressure, along with the "lock 'em up and throw away the key" attitude of society and politicians, has resulted in several states dropping their conjugal visitation programs in the last 10 years. Currently, only five states (California, Mississippi, New Mexico New Mexico, state in the SW United States. At its northwestern corner are the so-called Four Corners, where Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah meet at right angles; New Mexico is also bordered by Oklahoma (NE), Texas (E, S), and Mexico (S). , New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of
 and Washington) allow conjugal visits 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  for inmates and their spouses.

Mississippi was the first state to allow inmates to participate in conjugal visits. However, no formal penitentiary penitentiary: see prison.  records exist indicating the actual onset of conjugal visits at the Mississippi State Penitentiary Mississippi State Penitentiary, also known as Parchman Farm, is the oldest prison and the only maximum security prison in the state of Mississippi, USA. It is located on 18,000 acres (73 km²) in Parchman, Mississippi, and was built in 1901. It has beds for 4,840 inmates.  in Parchman. Hopper (1989, 1969) argued that informal conjugal visits probably have been allowed since the institution opened in 1900. Official recognition of the program was not established until 1965 (Hopper, 1989, 1969). The first offender's unit and the first brick "red house" [called so because the outside walls were painted red] also were established that year (Hopper, 1989, 1969; Goetting, 1982). In 1972, the prison administration officially began to manage and support the program. Another advancement was made in 1972 that allowed female inmates to participate in conjugal visits at Parchman (Hopper, 1989, 1969).

In 1974, the conjugal visitation program was expanded to include a three-day family visit. The program addition allowed inmates' families to spend up to three days and two nights in apartments located on prison grounds that were built for this purpose (Hopper, 1989, 1969). In 1987, a women's facility (the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility) was constructed in Rankin County, Miss. All female inmates at Parchman were transferred to this new facility.

Currently, there are approximately 5,300 inmates housed in the Mississippi State Penitentiary and the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility. Of these, approximately 350 of the 800 married inmates are allowed to participate in conjugal visits (Hensley et al., forthcoming). In addition, condoms are provided to conjugal visit participants to keep pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases Sexually transmitted diseases

Infections that are acquired and transmitted by sexual contact. Although virtually any infection may be transmitted during intimate contact, the term sexually transmitted disease is restricted to conditions that are largely
 to a minimum (Lillis, 1993).

There are three requirements inmates must meet prior to participation in conjugal visits in Mississippi. First, they must be housed in either minimum- or medium-security units. Inmates housed in maximum-security units are the only division of inmates automatically denied visits. Inmates also must provide proof of marriage, thereby rendering unmarried inmates ineligible for such visits. Finally, conjugal visits must be earned through good behavior Orderly and lawful action; conduct that is deemed proper for a peaceful and law-abiding individual.

The definition of good behavior depends upon how the phrase is used.
 (Hensley et al., forthcoming). However, inmates must be classified and apply for conjugal visits before they can be granted.

At-risk inmates, such as those who have sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS HIV/AIDS Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome , are denied eligibility. The conjugal visitation policy states, "In the event that a spouse of an HIV-infected inmate also is HIV-positive, the spouse may petition the commissioner of corrections for continuation of conjugal visits. If the spouse is HIV-negative, but desires conjugal visits and states in writing that they will practice safe sex, the spouse may petition for an exception ..." (Lillis, 1993).

Effects on Inmates

Since the first famous Sex in Prison study on conjugal visits was conducted at Parchman in 1969, advocates of conjugal visits have argued that these programs increase family stability and reduce homosexuality and violence in prison (Hopper, 1989, 1969; Burstein, 1977). However, Bennett (1989) found that most administrators did not believe that family stability could be maintained or increased and homosexuality and violence reduced by conjugal visitation programs. Conversely, many inmates -- particularly those participating in conjugal visitation programs -- report that it does, in fact, increase family stability and reduces homosexuality and violence (Hopper, 1989; Burstein, 1977).

Family Stability

Correctional systems in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area.  that allow conjugal visitation programs stress the preservation of family (Goetting, 1982). Conjugal visits tend to maintain the nuclear family and at the same time, lessen the emotional stress of the inmate's spouse. During the 1969 study conducted at Parchman, inmates appreciated the emotional satisfaction of visiting privately with their spouses more so than the sexual release (Hopper, 1969). Studies support the idea that conjugal visitation programs strengthen or at least keep inmate marriages intact (Rutland, 1995; Burstein, 1977; Kent, 1975; Hopper, 1969; Balogh, 1964). In two separate studies (1963 and 1984) of inmates' ratings of the functions of conjugal visits in Mississippi, Hopper (1989) found that the majority of inmates felt that conjugal visits kept marriages together.

Violent Behavior

If violent behavior is to be repressed re·pressed
Being subjected to or characterized by repression.
 in prison, it is argued that some type of control mechanism must be implemented. As seen by some prison officials, conjugal visitation programs may serve as a behavioral control mechanism. Such programs enhance equilibrium within the correctional system by functioning as a reward for compliance to the institution's rules and regulations (Goetting, 1982). As found in Joseph Balogh's sample of prison wardens, conjugal visits acted as a stimulus for inmates to comply with prison policies (Balogh, 1964). In this way, conjugal visits served as a way to control the inmates' behavior (Goetting, 1982).


It has been argued that most inmates who engage in consensual CONSENSUAL, civil law. This word is applied to designate one species of contract known in the civil laws; these contracts derive their name from the consent of the parties which is required in their formation, as they cannot exist without such consent.
 homosexual activity do so because of loneliness or the need for a sexual outlet (Gordon and McConnell, 1999). Thus, one can assume that conjugal visits may meet these particular needs for inmates who participate in the program. Studies have found that inmates, especially those participating in conjugal visitation programs, believe that homosexual activity can be reduced by these programs (Hopper, 1989; Burstein, 1977).


Based on the reviewed literature, the following hypotheses will be addressed in the present study:

1) Inmates who participate in conjugal visits will have increased levels of family stability;

2) Inmates who participate in conjugal visits will be less likely to engage in violent activities while incarcerated incarcerated /in·car·cer·at·ed/ (in-kahr´ser-at?ed) imprisoned; constricted; subjected to incarceration.

Confined or trapped, as a hernia.
; and

3) Inmates who participate in conjugal visits will be less likely to participate in homosexual activities while incarcerated.


Because maximum-security inmates are not allowed to participate in conjugal visits in Mississippi, participation in the study was requested from minimum-and medium-security inmates at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility (a female prison in Pearl) and Mississippi State Penitentiary (a male prison in Parchman). However, only four of the nine units at Central Mississippi Correctional Facility and two of the 25 units at Mississippi State Penitentiary were selected for the sample; these were administrative decisions. Overall, 126 male and 130 female inmates agreed to participate in the study. The response rate was 30 percent for the male inmates and 33 percent for the female inmates. Although the response rates appear low, most prison research pertaining per·tain  
intr.v. per·tained, per·tain·ing, per·tains
1. To have reference; relate: evidence that pertains to the accident.

 to sex has response rates at or below 25 percent.

Sixteen gender- and racially diverse graduate and undergraduate students distributed self-administered questionnaires to both the male and female inmates. Inmates were asked to raise their hands if they had any questions or needed one of the researchers to read the questionnaires to them. This approach of gathering data was used because many inmates have below-average education and literacy rates, which poses questions of validity.

Comparison of the prison population and the research sample show some differences. For example, the research sample overrepresented o·ver·rep·re·sent·ed  
Represented in excessive or disproportionately large numbers: "Some groups, and most notably some races, may be overrepresented and others may be underrepresented" 
 white male inmates (34.1 percent) compared to the racial composition of the male facility (23.4 percent white). Additionally, the research sample vastly underrepresented un·der·rep·re·sent·ed  
Insufficiently or inadequately represented: the underrepresented minority groups, ignored by the government. 
 black female inmates (30 percent) compared to the racial breakdown of the female facility (68.4 percent black females). Also, 28 percent of the females in the research sample participated in conjugal visits, compared to only 9 percent (77 females) who participate in the program for the entire institution. Only 8.2 percent (266) of all male inmates at Parchman are allowed to participate in conjugal visits compared to 49.2 percent of the sample who were allowed to participate. Thus, one must exercise caution in interpreting these findings.


The first survey section assessed demographic and criminal history information. The independent variable included in the present study is one's participation in the conjugal visitation program. This variable measures the frequency of participation. Respondents were asked: How often do you participate in conjugal visits? Response categories included 0=no participation in conjugal visits and 1=participation in conjugal visits. Control variables included gender, race, marital status marital status,
n the legal standing of a person in regard to his or her marriage state.
 and security level.

Three major dependent variables (family stability, violence and homosexual activities) were included in the analysis. The family stability scale (FAMILY) was comprised of six items designed to measure the amount of family stability. Inmates were asked, "While incarcerated, how many times have you: received letters, phone calls and visits from your spouse and children?" The response categories were combined and coded as 0=never, 1=one time, 2=two to four times and 3=more than four times. Scores ranged from zero to 24 (18). The alpha for this scale was .8308.

The violence scale (VIOLENCE) contained eight items designed to measure the amount of violent activity during incarceration Confinement in a jail or prison; imprisonment.

Police officers and other law enforcement officers are authorized by federal, state, and local lawmakers to arrest and confine persons suspected of crimes. The judicial system is authorized to confine persons convicted of crimes.
. The inmates were asked, "While incarcerated, how often have you: threatened to beat someone up, beaten someone up, threatened to stab someone, stabbed someone, threatened to rape someone, raped someone, threatened to kill someone and killed someone?" The response categories were combined and coded as 0=never, 1=one time, 2=two to four times and 3=more than four times. Scores ranged from zero to 24. The alpha for this scale was .8704.

The homosexuality scale measured an inmate's homosexual behavior during incarceration. The sexual behavior sexual behavior A person's sexual practices–ie, whether he/she engages in heterosexual or homosexual activity. See Sex life, Sexual life.  scale (SEXBEH) was made up of four items: 1) Have you ever kissed someone of the same sex while incarcerated? 2) Have you ever rubbed your body against someone of the same sex or allowed someone of the same sex to rub a body part against yours while incarcerated? 3) Have you ever touched the sex organs (breasts, vagina vagina: see reproductive system.

Genital canal in females. Together with the cavity of the uterus, it forms the birth canal. In most virgins, its external opening is partially closed by a thin fold of tissue (hymen), which has various forms,
 or penis) or allowed someone of the same sex to touch your sex organs while incarcerated? 4) Have you ever had oral or anal sexual intercourse with someone of the same sex (either giving or receiving) while incarcerated? Valid response categories included 0=no and 1=yes. Scores ranged from zero to four. The alpha for this scale was .9347. It should be noted that men and women who said that they had engaged in homosexual activity prior to incarceration were excluded from this part of the analysis.


To test whether conjugal visits would increase family stability and decrease violent behavior and homosexuality in prison, correlation coefficients Correlation Coefficient

A measure that determines the degree to which two variable's movements are associated.

The correlation coefficient is calculated as:
 and multiple regression Multiple regression

The estimated relationship between a dependent variable and more than one explanatory variable.
 analysis were employed. In order to determine the relationship between the independent variable and the dependent variables, Pearson correlation coefficients were examined (see Table 1).
Table 1: Pearson Correlation Coefficients for Pooled Sample

            Gender       Race      Security   Marital

Gender     1.000
Race       -.044       1.000
Security    .156        .132(*)     1.000
Marital     .257(**)    .195(**)    -.058      1.000
Conjugal    .458(**)    .107         .045       .599(**)
Family      .308(**)    .105         .030       .573(**)
SexBeh     -.325(**)   -.091        -.049      -.140
Violence    .128(*)    -.055        -.020      -.132

           Conjugal    Family    SexBeh    Violence

Conjugal   1.000
Family      .634(**)   1.000
SexBeh     -.147(*)    -.090   1.000
Violence    .122        .004    .351(**)    1.000

2-Tailed Significance: (*) .05 (**) .01
Gender     Participant's gender
Race       Participant's race
Security   Security level
Marital    Marital status
Conjugal   Participation in conjugal visits
Family     Family stability
SexBeh     Homosexual behavior during incarceration
Violence   Violent behavior after incarceration

For multiple regression analysis, the unstandardized regression coefficients Regression coefficient

Term yielded by regression analysis that indicates the sensitivity of the dependent variable to a particular independent variable. See: Parameter.

regression coefficient 
, the standardized regression coefficients and the total explained variance Explained variance is part of the variance of any residual that can be attributed to a specific condition (cause). The other part of variance is unexplained variance. The higher the explained variance relative to the total variance, the stronger the statistical measure used.  by all variables were calculated. Conjugal visits had a statistically significant effect on family stability in prison. Therefore, inmates who engaged in conjugal visits were more likely to have higher levels of family stability than inmates who did not participate. Conjugal visits also had a statistically significant effect on violent behavior in prison. Thus, those who engaged in conjugal visits were less likely to display violent behavior while in prison than those who did not participate. However, participation in conjugal visits did not have a statistically significant effect on homosexuality in prison.

Inmates also were asked two additional questions. When respondents were asked if conjugal visits reduced tension in prison, the results indicated that 80 percent of nonparticipants perceived that conjugal visits reduced tension. Additionally, 90 percent of all participants in the program felt that the visits reduced tension in prison. This finding was consistent with Burstein's (1977) study.

Finally, all respondents were questioned in order to evaluate if conjugal visits reduced same-sex activities while incarcerated. The findings revealed that 41 percent of all nonparticipants in the program believed that conjugal visits did not reduce homosexuality. However, 74 percent of participants felt that conjugal visits did reduce homosexual activities.


Most people have the need for love and sex. If these needs are not met by significant others, then other means may be developed in order to satisfy them. Such activities may arise in a unisex environment (i.e., prisons). Most inmates are deprived of normal relations with the outside world. Thus, there may be no better way to combat the deprivations of the inmate social system than by strengthening outside interpersonal relationships This article or section may contain original research or unverified claims.

Please help Wikipedia by adding references. See the for details.
This article has been tagged since September 2007.
 through the use of conjugal visitation programs (Hopper, 1989; 1969).

Past studies of conjugal visits in prison have found that inmates who participate in this program are more likely to have maintained or increased family stability while incarcerated. Results from the present study found conjugal visits had a significant, positive effect on family stability. Thus, conjugal visits have the possibility of maintaining and/or increasing family stability for married prison inmates.

Previous studies also have found that inmates who participate in conjugal visits are less prone to violent behavior (Hopper, 1989; Goetting 1982; Burstein, 1977). Results from the present study revealed that conjugal visits had a significant, negative effect on an individual's involvement in prison violence. In other words Adv. 1. in other words - otherwise stated; "in other words, we are broke"
put differently
, conjugal visits have the possibility of reducing violent behavior by inmates. Because inmates can lose privileges for engaging in violent behavior while incarcerated, conjugal visits seem to be a control mechanism that can be used to repress re·press
1. To hold back by an act of volition.

2. To exclude something from the conscious mind.
 this inappropriate behavior in prisons, at least for married inmates.

Also, according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

 previous studies, participation in conjugal visits reduces prison homosexuality (Goetting 1982; Burstein, 1977; Hopper, 1969). However, the present study revealed that conjugal visits do not have a significant effect on homosexuality during incarceration. This could be due to the nature of the questions, which lacked many of the power aspects of prison sexuality This article or section may contain original research or unverified claims.

Please help Wikipedia by adding references. See the for details.
This article has been tagged since February 2007.

Even though some of the findings of this study were inconsistent with previous research, officials and public opinion in Mississippi still support this traditional method for maintaining family ties and reducing unwanted behavior (Hopper, 1989). As Hopper stated in 1989, "Family visitation VISITATION. The act of examining into the affairs of a corporation.
     2. The power of visitation is applicable only to ecclesiastical and eleemosynary corporations. 1 Bl. Com. 480; 2 Kid on Corp. 174.
 works in Parchman not because Mississippi is different from other places, but because the program is sound and both the inmates and staff members want it to succeed."

Table 2: Direct Effects of All Variables on Family Stability in Prison
Variable                        B      Beta   Sig.

Conjugal Visitation (1=Yes)   5.703    .453   .000
Security Level (1=Medium)     -.068   -.005   .928
Gender (1=Male)                .351    .028   .645
Race (1=White)                 .126    .168   .867
Marital Status (1=Married)    3.666    .297   .000

Constant                      4.988

Significant F=.0000
R Square=.480

Table 3: Direct Effects of All Variables on Violent Behavior in Prison
Variable                         B      Beta   Sig.

Conjugal Visitation (1=Yes)    1.789    .250   .008
Security Level (1=Medium)      -.171   -.022   .758
Gender (1=Male)                 .682    .097   .224
Race (1=White)                  .377    .051   .481
Marital Status (1=Married)    -1.991   -.284   .001

Constant                       2.025

Significant F=.007
R Square=.0798

Table 4: Direct Effects of All Variables on Homosexuality in Prison
Variable                        B      Beta   Sig.

Conjugal Visitation (1=Yes)   -.074   -.030   .748
Security Level (1=Medium)      .162    .062   .391
Gender (1=Male)                .694   -.290   .000
Race (1=White)                -.244   -.097   .185
Marital Status (1=Married)     .065    .027   .765

Constant                       .782

Significant F=.002
R Square=.092


Balogh, J. 1964. Conjugal visitations in prisons: A sociological perspective The sociological perspective is a particular way of approaching a phenomena common in sociology. It involves maintaining objectivity, not by divesting oneself of values, but by critically evaluating and testing ideas, and accepting what may be surprising or even displeasing based . Federal Probation The Federal Probation Service or United States Probation Service is an agency that services the United States District Court in all 94 judicial federal districts nationwide and constitutes the community corrections arm of the Federal Court System. , 28- 29:52-58.

Bennett, L.A. 1989. Correctional administrators' attitudes toward private family visiting. The Prison Journal, 66:110-114.

Burstein, J. 1977. Conjugal visits in prison: Psychological and social consequences. Lexington, Mass.: Heath.

Goetting, A. 1982. Conjugal Pertaining or relating to marriage; suitable or applicable to married people.

Conjugal rights are those that are considered to be part and parcel of the state of matrimony, such as love, sex, companionship, and support.
 association in prison: Issues and perspectives. Crime and Delinquency, 28 (January): 52-71.

Gordon, J. and E. McConnell. 1999. "Are conjugal and familial visitations effective rehabilitative re·ha·bil·i·tate  
tr.v. re·ha·bil·i·tat·ed, re·ha·bil·i·tat·ing, re·ha·bil·i·tates
1. To restore to good health or useful life, as through therapy and education.

 concepts?" The Prison Journal, 79:119-135.

Hensley, C., S. Rutland, P. Gray-Ray and L. Durant. Forthcoming. Conjugal visitations in Mississippi: An urban sanction? The Researcher.

Hopper, C. 1969. Sex in prison. Baton Rouge Baton Rouge (băt`ən rzh) [Fr.,=red stick], city (1990 pop. 219,531), state capital and seat of East Baton Rouge parish, SE La. . La.: Louisiana State University Press This article needs sources or references that appear in reliable, third-party publications. Alone, primary sources and sources affiliated with the subject of this article are not sufficient for an accurate encyclopedia article. .

Hopper, C. 1989. The evolution of conjugal visiting in Mississippi. The Prison Journal, 66:103-109.

Kent, N.E. 1975. The legal and sociological dimensions of conjugal visitation in prisons. New England New England, name applied to the region comprising six states of the NE United States—Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. The region is thought to have been so named by Capt.  Journal on Prison Law, 2(27):47-65.

Lillis, J. 1993. Family visitation evolves. Corrections Compendium com·pen·di·um  
n. pl. com·pen·di·ums or com·pen·di·a
1. A short, complete summary; an abstract.

2. A list or collection of various items.
, 18(11): 1-4.

Rutland, S. 1995. Examining the effects of conjugal visitations within the Mississippi Department of Corrections: Family stability, violence, and homosexuality. Master's thesis: Mississippi State University Mississippi State University, at Mississippi State, near Starkville; land-grant and state supported; coeducational; chartered 1878 as an agricultural and mechanical college, opened 1880. From 1932 to 1958 it was known as Mississippi State College. .

Christopher Hensley, Ph.D., is director of the Institute for Correctional Research and Training and assistant professor of sociology in the Department of Sociology Noun 1. department of sociology - the academic department responsible for teaching and research in sociology
sociology department

academic department - a division of a school that is responsible for a given subject
, Social Work and Criminology criminology, the study of crime, society's response to it, and its prevention, including examination of the environmental, hereditary, or psychological causes of crime, modes of criminal investigation and conviction, and the efficacy of punishment or correction (see  at Morehead State University History
Morehead State University was originally founded as a private teacher's college in 1887, The Morehead Normal School. It is said to have been comprised of 13 buildings with a layout in the shape of a crescent moon for some period prior to 1922.
 in Morehead, Ky. Sandra Rutland, M.S., is a U.S. probation officer probation officer
1. An official usually attached to a juvenile court and charged with the care of juvenile delinquents.

2. An official charged with supervising convicts at large on suspended sentence or probation.
 in Biloxi, Miss. Phyllis Gray-Ray, Ph.D., is research coordinator for the Institute for Disability Studies at the University of Southern Mississippi in Jackson, Miss.
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Author:Hensley, Christopher; Rutland, Sandra; Gray-Ray, Phyllis
Publication:Corrections Compendium
Date:Apr 1, 2000
Next Article:On Behalf of Inmates: International Committee of the Red Cross.

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