People usually think of overnight prison visits as being between men and their wives but the fact is that many “conjugal visits” are exclusively with children. Through these overnight visitation programs, a small number of children get a chance to spend desperately needed quality time with their mother or father.
The cruel and misguided campaign to end ‘conjugal’ visits hurts mothers in prison most, argues Katie Rose Quandt, especially those “who have lost almost all agency, including the ability to be present in their children’s lives.” Instead, it denies these women a chance “to revive strained relationships and glimpse a better future.”
“In 2007, more than 1.7 million children — about 1 in 43 kids nationwide — had a parent in state or federal prison, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics… For black kids, it was 1 in 15,” notes Quandt.
Studies have linked these extended visits to better behavior and lower rates of sexual violence in prison as well as a higher likelihood of employment and lower rates of recidivism after prison, says Quandt, while a 2012 overview of research found the visits “could be a powerful incentive for good inmate behavior.”
And yet, such programs have been disappearing since the 1980s and 90s, when politicians and policymakers, focused on punishment, began eliminating rehabilitation programs — dismissing them as extravagant. Since 1993, in fact, the number of states with visitation programs has dwindled from 17 to three. Only California, New York, and Washington still consider them necessary.