New Mexico is set to outlaw conjugal prison visits, meaning as of May 1, only four states in the country will allow them.
Although prison occupants around the country were once widely allowed to be intimate with spouses and lovers during incarceration, there are a variety of reasons why such a privilege is now very rare.
In New Mexico, a Department of Corrections spokesperson named Alex Tomlin said not only will the decision to cease conjugal visits stop the possibility of problems stemming from pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, but also save the state about $120,000 per year in expenses.
Tomlin clarified that two years of research was carried out to determine the likelihood an inmate would be incarcerated again after being released if he or she had the advantage of overnight visits from a partner. After the data was studied, researchers came to the conclusion that there was no impact on the rate of re-incarceration.
When the results of that study are combined with the risk of the possible issues discussed above, it makes sense why states like New Mexico have decided to do away with the practice. However, supporters of conjugal visits for prisoners say the rewards help positively influence the behavior of inmates, while also strengthening familial ties.
Conjugal prison visits do not occur in federal facilities. After New Mexico phases them out, they’ll only be permitted for prisoners in New York, California, Connecticut and Washington state.
Whether or not you’re a supporter of offering this kind of interaction to prisoners, the good news is, very few inmates will be affected by the impending change. Out of the 7,000 total inmates in the state, less than 150 are eligible for conjugal prison visits.
Mississippi was the first state to permit prisoners to have sex with loved ones, and the practice there began a century ago. However, even Mississippi changed policies in February, and no longer allows it. Conjugal prison visits in New Mexico are a significantly newer practice.
They’ve only been happening since 1980, and unfortunately, the benefit didn’t come about just because officials in charge thought it was time to do something nice for prisoners. Rather, the change was sparked by a violent riot that lasted three days and resulted in an excess of blood and gore.
When 33 prisoners were killed by fellow inmates in Santa Fe after falling victim to beheadings and fatal burns, officials decided conjugal prison visits might help relieve tensions. Now, as things get set to change again, we should all hope history doesn’t repeat itself in the modern era.