What Is a Conjugal Visit?

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Even though conjugal visitations play a significant role in the lives of inmates and their families, very few incarcerated individuals have access to them. 

Suppose you or your spouse is in a correctional institution. In that case, you may find the following sections regarding conjugal visitation helpful in understanding the possible benefits of such visits for you and your family.

 Additionally, you may gain relevant insight regarding the rules and processes of conjugal visits.

Our online site, lookupinmate.org, contains additional information regarding state provisions for married inmates. 

Furthermore, you can also use our website’s search tool to locate inmates in various correctional institutions in the United States.

Conjugal Visitation: A Privilege or a Right?

The United States criminal justice system indicates that conjugal visitation is a privilege and a right of inmates’ spouses. 

Conjugal and Extended Visitation Are Highly Regulated Privileges 

Generally, inmates and visitors must submit applications before the authorities allow them an extended family or conjugal visit.

The following list shows the typical rules regarding such visitations:

  • The requesting prisoner should have a clean prison record and no violent offenses
  • Institutions do not allow inmates who received sentences due to child abuse or domestic violence conjugal visits
  • Extended family visits typically do not apply to inmates housed in low-security facilities

Moreover, state or local jurisdictions determine eligible visitors. Usually, the visitor is a family member, has a record of inmate visitation in prison (or a legitimate reason for not doing so), and undergoes a background check.

Furthermore, institutions strictly prohibit smuggling drugs, alcohol, cell phones, or other electronic gadgets. Additionally, there may be other constraints, including limits on gifts or food.

In some cases, authorities may deny visitors entry for not wearing appropriate clothing.

Who Is Eligible for Conjugal Visitation?

Typically, inmates who have a record of good behavior while in prison are eligible for conjugal visits. However, prison officials usually exclude individuals convicted of domestic violence and sex crimes and those serving life sentences from the eligibility list.

Conjugal visits are private periods an inmate spends with a spouse. The purpose behind such visits is to permit inmates to have intimate contact with their partners, including sexual intercourse.

On the other hand, the following list includes individuals who can visit eligible inmates during non-conjugal family visitations:

  • Adoptive parents
  • Biological parents
  • Registered domestic partners
  • Foster parents
  • Siblings
  • Natural and adopted children
  • Grandparents

How Conjugal Visits Work

Generally, inmates must have a proven track record of clean conduct before they can be eligible for a conjugal visit. However, their visitors must also undergo several background checks before the day of visitation.

Moreover, visitors must also submit to a physical search for prison contraband, such as weapons, drugs, or alcohol. 

Rules for Conjugal Visits

Listed below are some actual rules that individuals may encounter during conjugal visitations:

  1. The visitor must be at the jail at least an hour before the designated time for an extended family visit.
  2. Guests should provide a valid ID card to enter the facility.
  3. Visitors must know that while using the correctional facility, they must adhere to all rules and regulations.
  4. The day’s officer or desk officer is responsible for checking the conjugal visiting logbook to see if the visitor is on time.
  5. Visitors must consent to the searchers’ complete examination of their personal property.
  6. Visitors sometimes submit to a strip search and a visual bodily cavity search without written consent.
  7. Upon entry, visitors receive a visitor’s tag, which they must wear at all times while inside the facility.

Waiting List

Inmates must exhibit excellent prison behavior and serve at least 90 days of their sentence to get on the waiting list in any state that allows overnight visits. Moreover, institutions typically exclude lifers and sex offenders from participating in conjugal visits.

States Have Different Rules

In the United States, each state has various rules regarding conjugal visitations, or “extended family visits.” 

A 1981 report stated that the following states were the only regions in the U.S. that had conjugal visitation programs for inmates:

Following the report, various states changed their position regarding conjugal visits. For instance, at the beginning of 2000, South Carolina and Minnesota were off the list, and New Mexico and Connecticut had extended visitation policies.

However, despite being the first state to initiate conjugal visitation programs in the U.S., the Department of Corrections in Mississippi ended the privilege in 2016. 

How Often Can Prisoners Have Visitors?

Conjugal prison visits may range from one hour to three days and typically occurs monthly.

Where Do Conjugal Visits Take Place?

The conjugal visits usually take place in small apartments, trailers, or “family cottages” established for such visits.

How Do the Living Spaces Look?

Living spaces for conjugal visits are units that imitate homes. These areas include a bedroom, dining room, and living room with a TV, board games, playing cards, and dominoes.

Do Conjugal Visits Help Preserve Families?

Research indicates that family visits positively impact incarcerated individuals and their family members. 

New York even refers to its conjugal visits as the “Family Reunion Program” (FRP).

Why Allow Extended Family Visitation Time?

Studies suggest that family visitation programs can result in the following benefits for inmates and their loved ones:

  • Better health
  • Improvement in school performance
  • Decreased recidivism (the tendency of inmates to re-offend)

Extended family visits may also strengthen the family bond.

Furthermore, studies suggest that incarcerated individuals who can have romantic and family visits are less likely to engage in violence and other criminal behavior.

Do Prisons Allow Conjugal Visits?

The following sections describe the guidelines for conjugal visits in two different correctional facilities: federal and state prisons.

Federal Prisons

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons does not allow conjugal visitations for prisoners under federal supervision.

State Prisons

The availability of conjugal visits for inmates held in state custody depends on the state’s laws. 

In places where the state allows conjugal visits, inmates must fulfill specific criteria to qualify for this privilege. Moreover, their visitors also need to pass a background check.

What Happens During Conjugal Visits in Prison?

Inmates get to bond with their loved ones during conjugal visits. The visiting family members can watch a movie, play games, or eat together with their incarcerated loved ones.

What Do Correctional Officers Do During Conjugal Visits?

Correctional officers supervise and monitor conjugal visitations. Consequently, in many cases, these officials routinely check the inmate and the visitor during such visits.

History of Conjugal Visits

The following sections briefly describe the origin and reception of conjugal visits.

How Did Conjugal Visit Start? Did It Involve Sex? 

Conjugal visits may have begun in 1918 at Parchman Farm, a boot camp in Mississippi. 

Such visitations served as a haphazard, paternalistic incentive scheme for black prisoners. Specifically, these visits mean that these individuals may engage in sexual intercourse on a given Sunday if they put in much effort working in prison.

Were Conjugal Visits Founded on a Racist Premise?

The concept of conjugal visits has its roots in a racially discriminating premise.

For instance, prison administrators thought allowing black individuals to participate in sexual behavior would increase their productivity.

The officers also believed black men had more robust sex drives than white men. Consequently, buses packed with women would show up every weekend to get intimate with the black prisoners.

Authorities considered conjugal visits to sustain black prisoners through a six-day work week of taxing labor and conditions.

However, conjugal visits now encompass longer time with the family due to various advocacies. 

Even the Parchman Farm had improved by the 1960s. For example, institutions permitted regular visitations, initiated furlough programs, and built cabins so that offenders could spend time alone with their significant others.

Conjugal Visitation in American Prisons Today

The U.S. Supreme Court and federal courts have pronounced that inmates do not have a constitutional right to conjugal visitation.

Most states do not allow individuals serving their sentences in jail or prison to spend private time with a spouse or domestic partner. However, some states have enacted policies permitting eligible individuals to enjoy “extended family visits.”

The term “extended family visit” sometimes refers to conjugal visits. However, the phrase can also mean an opportunity for prisoners to spend time with their families and children.

Still, prisoners can have alone time with their spouses or significant others during a conjugal visit. These visits aim to enable inmates to engage in sexual activity with their partners.

Additionally, a conjugal or extended family visit may take a few hours or all night long, depending on the state’s extended family visitation program.

Why Conjugal Visitations Are Disappearing 

Seventeen states allowed overnight visits in 1993. However, only California, New York, and Washington continued their conjugal visitation programs because other states worried about safety, pregnancy, and the perception that such trips are needless or pricey.

Which States Still Allow Conjugal Visitation Programs? 

Today, only four states have rules that allow extended visits: New York, Washington, California, and Connecticut.

What Happens During Overnight Visits?

Extended family visits or overnight visits occasionally involve intimate relations between inmates and their legal spouses.

However, the visitation is also an opportunity for inmates to reconnect with their children.

What Everyone Gets Wrong

Conjugal visits are not just about sex and “family visits,” meaning kids can stay overnight. 

For example, a spouse or partner in Connecticut cannot enter the facility without the inmate’s child.  

In the state, just around a third of lengthy visits are between spouses.

Do Other Countries Have Conjugal Visits Too?

Other countries also allow conjugal visitations. However, these countries are very few, and most do not have a positive stance regarding extended family visits.

The U.S. is not the only country becoming more restrictive regarding conjugal visits. 

Great Britain and Northern Ireland have also prohibited such visitations.  However, these countries allow home visits, emphasizing links with the outside world to which the inmate will return. 

Moreover, authorities only grant home visits to prisoners who have a few weeks to a few months remaining of a long sentence.

On the other hand, countries like Germany allow conjugal visits through a rigorous screening process. 


Some reports indicate that prisoners may sometimes lie regarding their relationship with particular visitors to get them passes for conjugal visits. For example, inmates may claim that one of their guests is a family member even though it is not true.

A Stay at the “Boneyard”

In the United States, regions that perpetuate conjugal visitation programs may refer to living spaces for extended family visits as “boneyards.” 

Check With a Lawyer

The rules and regulations governing prison visits are constantly changing.

Contact the prison authorities or seek legal advice from a professional familiar with the local legislation if you have any issues concerning conjugal or extended visitor privileges in your state.


  1. Which countries have liberal policies on conjugal visits?

The countries with liberal policies regarding conjugal visitations are possibly Brazil and Venezuela. Their prison systems may sometimes allow individuals to visit inmates weekly. 

  1. Do conjugal visits get interrupted periodically?

Prison officers routinely interrupt the visitor and the inmate for searches before and after visits. The purpose of these interruptions is to ensure no contraband smuggling.

  1. Can same-sex couples take part in conjugal visitations?

Each state or nation differs regarding same-sex visitations for incarcerated individuals.

For example, in the U.S., only California and New York states have policies that allow same-sex conjugal visits.

In contrast, Brazil grants conjugal rights to homosexual inmates. 

  1. Do inmates get “stripped in and out?”

Occasionally, prison officers would strip-search visitors and conduct alcohol and drug tests. However, in most cases, guests merely need to go through a metal detector.

  1. Do death row inmates get conjugal visits?

Death row inmates are not entitled to conjugal visits, even in states that do it for other convicts. Additionally, no state formally allows such visits for death row inmates.

  1. Are conjugal visits free for the prisoners?

In most states that allow conjugal visits, the visitation is free. However, Washington State requires a fee of five to ten dollars per night.


1. Conjugal Visitation: Prisoner’s Privilege or Spouse’s Right
2. Prison Law Office
3. Conjugal Visitation in American Prisons Today
4. Mississippi First to Begin Conjugal Visits, Latest to End Them
5. Conjugal Visits
6. Research roundup: The positive impacts of family contact for incarcerated people and their families
7. General Visiting Information
8. Brazil: Homosexual Inmates Granted Right to Conjugal Visits

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