Conjugal Visits – An Objective View
December 9, 2009 6 Comments
In an article published in the Landbou Weekblad 11 years ago, the issue of conjugal rights for prisoners was brought into the spotlight. The following is an article published in the Zonderwater Bulletin in 1998 in response to the article. 11 years later nothing has changed.
“… The bottom line of the (Landbou) article suggested that to allow prisoners to have sex with their spouses (husbands & wives) would defeat the purpose for which they are imprisoned. This raises a real question of: What is the real purpose for sending an offender to prison? How does the time they serve benefit society, if at all? It is often said that criminals are sent to prison as punishment and not for punishment. The loss of freedom is the punishment when a prison sentence is imposed.
Ultimately, the desired effect (of the incarceration system) would be that prisoners return to society as contributors and not as liabilities. Therefore, the purpose for which criminals are imprisoned is for rehabilitation (creating a new reality) and preparation; to rehabilitate them from their ant-social behaviour and to prepare them for their return to the social stream. The system in which they are incarcerated should be conducive to this aim.
Returning to the issue of conjugal rights/visits, it is, indeed, by its very nature, a most sensitive issue. To merely dismiss it on the grounds that it would defeat the purpose of incarceration is therefore rather shallow at best and downright ignorant at worst. There are both advantages and disadvantages to allowing or not allowing conjugal rights for prisoners. These must be looked at from various perspectives and always with an open mind.
For arguments sake, let us not look at it as a question of whether a prisoner should be entitled to sex, but rather, should the innocent partner be denied the right to have sex with with his/her partner? Did the author of the Landbou Weekblad article consider the predicament of a Christian wife who is sincerely bound by her vows? Should she be forced into long periods of sexual inactivity? Prisoners rights are certainly subject to certain limitations given the physical realities of imprisonment. But how far can those limitations be allowed to infringe on the rights of law abiding citizens? Does South Africa have a system which falls within the guidelines of our constitution? (Entering the year 2010 that remains doubtful.)
Other aspects to consider are the implications on security, the increased risk of escapes, drug smuggling (but this is why the government employs security staff) and the very important issue of funding appropriately dignified quarters on a limited budget. On the other hand, allowing “private time” could help to alleviate stress in both partners and would probably result in the decrease of homosexuality and homosexual rape within the prison context. It may also help to reduce the very real possibility of released male offenders who are sexually frustrated from seeking sexual gratification by any means upon their release. It is certainly not uncommon that some might take this by force.
More importantly, allowing conjugal visitation for inmates would help to sustain the flow of family relationships and security for those where there is a need.
It is clear that there is much to be considered before expressing unqualified comment and opinion concerning this issue.