• 64°

Conjugal visits no longer acceptable in Mississippi state correctional facilities

When Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps ends a program on Jan. 31 that allows conjugal visits for prisoners, inmates in Pearl River County won’t be affected.

 

“We have never allowed it and I don’t intend to,” said Sheriff David Allison of the Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department.

 

Deputy Chief Chad Dorn of the Picayune Police Department said the Picayune jail doesn’t allow conjugal visits either.

 

Epps announced this week that he would stop the program in hopes of cutting down on prisons’ expenses.

 

Conjugal visits are allowed for legally married, minimum-security inmates who haven’t violated prison rules in the previous six months, Epps said.

 

According the Mississippi Department of Corrections website, eligible inmates are given an hour for a conjugal visit and are provided with soap, condoms, tissue, sheets, pillowcase, face towel and a bath towel. Both the inmate and spouse are searched before and after each visit for security reasons.

 

Epps said he believes it helps keep families together and reduces sexual assault among prisoners. But he said with the current focus on trimming prisons’ expenses, the benefits don’t outweigh the costs.

 

Last budget year, 155 out of 22,000 inmates were allowed conjugal visits, Epps said.

 

“You’ve got staff time involved, exporting them to the place and supervising personal hygiene and keeping up the infrastructure,” Epps said. “Then, even though we provide contraceptive protection, there’s no way for me to know, and then you end up with a single spouse out there raising a child.”

 

State Rep. Richard Bennett for Long Beach said he planned to file a bill during the 2014 legislative session to end the program, but Epps was able to make the change without a law being passed.

 

Mississippi is one of only six states that allows conjugal visits and the practice is forbidden in federal prisons.

 

The Associated Press contributed to this story.