Every person has right to bear a family and meet their loved ones. But can same be told for prisoners and inmates who are locked up in prison serving their time of imprisonment? Conjugal visit laws are pretty much discussed in many countries. While in some countries, it is allowed for prisoners to have conjugal visit while most of the countries do not allow prisoners to have conjugal visits from their family.
A conjugal visit is a time when a prison or jail prisoner can spend several hours or days in private with a visitor, normally their legal spouse, children, parents, or any recognized family member. The most widely accepted reason for allowing such visits in modern times is to maintain family relationships and improve the likelihood of a prisoner's successful return to normal crime-free life after release. They often serve as a motivator for prisoners to follow the prison's numerous day-to-day laws and regulations to avoid any infractions that might prevent them from getting a conjugal visit.
As mentioned above, different countries have different views on laws relating to conjugal visits.
Position in India
In India, there are no laws allowing prisoners or jail inmates to have conjugal visits from their spouse, kids, or family. In 2015, when Punjab and Haryana High Court were hearing a case of Jasvir Singh and another vs State of Punjab and Ors, (print journal citation not found) they refused the prisoners their prayer to allow conjugal visit. The prisoners were husband and wife convicted of murder. The husband was sentenced to death and the wife was serving a life sentence. They argued that Art.21, Right to Life, included right to propagate species, for which sex life is a vital part. Their prayer to allow artificial insemination was also rejected.
In a more recent scenario, the Madras High Court bench presided over by Justice S Vimala Devi and T Krishna Valli while hearing a Habeas Corpus Petition in Mrs.Meharaj vs The State(print journal citation not found)filed by the wife for granting conjugal visit rights to her to visit her husband who was currently undergoing Life Imprisonment. The bench granted the prisoner a 2-week leave for a conjugal visit. The court cited a resolution passed by the Centre describing conjugal visits as a right and not a privilege.
The Countries that allow conjugal visit has arguable reason for that. According to many countries who allow such visit, they point out that regular conjugal visit to prisoners by their spouses or other family members makes them more law abiding inside prison and they can even return to have normal life once their jail term comes to an end. In addition to that they are of opinion that family ties and bonds must be maintained even in case where the person is in prison. This will also encourage them to mend their ways for sake of their families.
In Australia, the conjugal visits are permitted in some territories including Australian capital territory and Victoria. However, in other parts including Western Australia and Queensland, such visits are prohibited.
Brazil is probably only one of few countries in the world which allows conjugal visit both for heterosexual as well as homosexual couples. However, here’s the catch. Such permission is only given to male prisoners and female prisoners are rarely allowed to have conjugal visit in Brazil.
Conjugal visit is allowed in under Canadian Law. However not all prisoners in Canada get to have conjugal visit. The prisoners those are on disciplinary actions or at risk for family violence are not permitted to get privilege of such visit. All other eligible visitors are permitted to have conjugal visit for up to 72 hours duration once every two months. Every amenity required for comfort time during conjugal visit is given by the prison institution but such amount for services shall be given by inmate who is on such visit.
In Czech Republic, the conjugal visit is allowed subject to permission from the prison warden.
Conjugal visits are permitted in Denmark. Inmates who have been sentenced to more than eight years in prison are allowed visit for 47 hours in the specially created apartments for couples by State Prison of East Jutland.
Conjugal visit is permitted in France for up to 72 hours in specially designed mini apartments consisting of two small rooms, kitchen, and a dining area.
Conjugal visits are allowed in Germany for prisoners and their spouses or friends. Many that have been approved are given unsupervised visits, allowing prisoners to maintain close relationships with their partners. However, this practice of German prison came under fire in 2010 when an inmate murdered his girlfriend on one such visit and then tried to attempt suicide. Since then, prisoners are also kept under close supervision and searched thoroughly before going into such visits.
Israel allows standard conjugal visits to inmates who are married or in a common law relationship or their partner has been visiting them frequently for at least 2 years. However, prisoners who receive prison furlough are not eligible for conjugal visit. Israel also lays down rule that conjugal visit right can be suspended in the event of security threats or as a punishment for misbehavior. Just like Brazil, Israel allowed same sex partners to have conjugal visits from July 2013.
In some correctional facilities in Mexico, even if the prisoner is not married, his/her full family is permitted to not only visit him/ her in prison but to actually stay inside prison for an extended period. Just like Brazil and Israel, the prison system of Mexico allowed same sex partner to have conjugal visits.
India’s neighbor Pakistan permitted conjugal visit but only under special circumstances until 2009. The Federal Shariat Court ruled in August 2009 that married inmates should be given conjugal visits at designated facilities inside the jail complex or be granted a short parole to see their spouses. Following the decision, Sindh became the first province to pass legislation enabling married prisoners to have conjugal visits inside jail grounds.
Well-behaved inmates in the Russian penal system have been given an eighteen-day holiday furlough from jail to see loved ones after a prison reform movement started in 2001. In addition, about once a month, prisoners receive extended on-site family visits.
In Spain, prisoners are allowed conjugal visit every 4 to 8 weeks for up to 3 hours.
In Turkey, conjugal visit can be permitted well-behaved prisoners since April 2013.
United Kingdom which includes England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland do not allow conjugal visits, but they allow home visits to prisoners who have few weeks to few months remaining of their long sentence to end. Furthermore, only those prisoners are granted home visits who are less likely to abscond.
United States of America partially allow conjugal visit, comprising of 50 States only 17 of them had the facility of conjugal visit in early 1990s out of which only 4 of them (California, Connecticut, New York, and Washington) are currently allowing prisoner to have conjugal visits that too is prisoner is in the state custody and not in federal custody. Mississippi and New Mexico were the latest in line to abolish the conjugal visits system in their state prison in 2014. California in June 2007 passed the legislation to allow same sex conjugal visits.
Position around the globe: countries not allowing conjugal visits
While most of the major and big countries around the globe permit conjugal visits, there are countries which do not permit such practice. These countries include- Japan, Hong Kong, Ireland, New Zealand etc.
The increasing trend of allowing conjugal visits to prisoners in prison have also made its way in India and it will be perhaps only a matter of time where the practice may take root in India.
Rajesh is a qualified CA & CWA. He has served as a Director of PricewaterhouseCoopers, a Director of a large urban co-operative bank and Dean of a B-School over the years. He has taught Finance for over 20 years & trained participants from several Companies and B-Schools. He is an educator and a learner (he believes both are inextricably intertwined), and a knowledge product developer. Law Gyani, which he has founded to help Law Students with their exam preparations, and to understand nuances of the law.
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