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If you listen to any true crime podcast, you'll hear riveting stories of murderous killers and wicked women. You might hear of serial killer calling cards, intrepid investigators, as well as the nightmarish aftermath that victims and their families have been stuck with.
If you really think about it though, there's one thing you probably won't hear about: conjugal visits. These visits involve allowing prisoners to meet with wives or girlfriends, often with the connotation that they will be able to have sex with them behind bars.
Though they're often mentioned in movies and TV shows, the truth is that they are relatively rare behind bars. Don't believe it? Here are some facts that may surprise you about these unique visits.
Conjugal visits are outlawed in all but four states.
If you thought every jail would allow these kinds of visitations, you're sadly mistaken. Though over a dozen states had them in the 90s, that number has whittled down to only four states where conjugal visitations are legal.
Those states are Connecticut, New York, Washington, and California. Mississippi and New Mexico, two other states, stopped allowing the practice in 2014.
The whole "conjugal" aspect isn't really true.
Though they are definitely known for the hanky-panky that could happen behind closed doors, the modern term for conjugal visits is "extended family visits."
These visits aren't just for husband and wife; they're meant to help inmates stay in contact with the outside world, keep in touch with family, and reduce recidivism. They may hang out with relatives, see children, or, yes, see friends too.
There was a Supreme Court battle over this.
In 1974, the Supreme Court had to figure out whether or not prisoners had a right to get family visitation. The defenders of the right believed it to be a violation of the 8th Amendment, but the deniers believed it's not necessarily cruel to reject family visits.
The courts ruled the prisoners do not have a federal right to see their families. Since then, the practice has been on the decline.
The sex thing is real, though.
If you thought that these experiences were just movie banter however, you're quite wrong. Visits often happen at private bedrooms, complete with condoms, sheets, towels, and lube—as well as other basic toiletries and amenities.
So, it's kind of like a love hotel inside a prison. Sort of?
Getting access to visit your family members for an extended time is exceedingly rare in states where it's even legal.
Only a very select few inmates who apply to get a visit from a spouse or family member will see them. If you want to have a visit in jail, you need to be a model inmate who has a record of perfectly good behavior. In fact, most extended visitations happen when prisoners are about to get out of jail.
How bad is it? Of the 22,000 applicants who applied for a visitation right in the last year of Mississippi's program, only 155 were granted visitation. Of those 155, many didn't get the amount of time they were hoping to have.
America is not the only country that allows conjugal visits.
Many countries view extended contact with family members as a human right. They have (rightfully) started to create their own extended visitation programs for inmates who have demonstrated exemplary behavior behind bars.
Some of the countries that run their own visitation programs include India, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Canada, Denmark, and Australia. In Saudia Arabia, men who also marry behind bars are given $2,300 for a wedding gift!
Criminals aren't the only ones who need background checks for visitations.
If you have an inmate buddy behind bars and want to arrange a visit, you better be on your best behavior, too! Most prisons that allow conjugal stops will require visitors to undergo a thorough background check before they can meet up.
Seriously, looking perfect on paper is crucial if you want to get a visit. A single past felony or misdemeanor can be a disqualifying factor!
The entire concept is actually based on racist beliefs.
The Parchman Farm, which was a farm that doubled as a prison where inmates would work their debt to society away, was the first prison to start conjugal visits in 1918. The visits were only available to black inmates, too.
It wasn't because they wanted to reduce recidivism, or because of the sanctity of marriage. Wardens believed that black men had higher sex drives than white men, and would work harder on the farm if they had sex with women.
Wardens bought prostitutes and let the men have sex with them on Sundays. And thus, the tradition was born.
A large part of the reason conjugal visits are being phased out is due to the risk of inmates harming their visitors.
It sounds crazy, but it's true. Prison officials are very concerned about the safety of the people who visit inmates—and rightfully so. One such case happened in 2010, with an inmate called Klaus-Dieter H.
Klaus was interned in a German prison and sentenced to 19 years for the rape and murder of a young girl. Insane as it may be, the child murderer managed to have a pen pal in a 46-year-old single mother.
The two were left alone in an unmonitored room for six hours. When they opened the door, the woman was dead. Her head was bashed in by a blunt object, her throat was cut, and she was stabbed.
These visits are also a way to reduce prison rape.
Whether or not you feel like conjugal visits are a luxury, it's hard to deny solid evidence of their benefits. One major study showed that extended family visits actually reduce the amount of prison rape instances that happen.
So, not only is it great for women losing their husbands to the prison system, it's also great for the prisoners. In other words, bringing this practice back is a great way to avoid cruel and unusual punishment—unlike the DOC video above.