Conjugal visits aren't a bad idea

August 04, 2017
The Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre in downtown Kingston.

When you take a criminal out of society by incarcerating them, the onus is on the authorities to ensure that if and when that person re-enters society, they will bring value to that society and hopefully steer clear of further run-ins with the law. It's called rehabilitation.

You educate them and try to change the way they see life. You treat them like people, not savages. If you send a violent man into a violent environment, what are the chances that he will return to society a changed individual?

However, if you take that violent man and insert him into an environment where education and decency are a way of life, then perhaps you can influence him to find alternatives to his violent life.

It is against that background that I was heartened recently when I read somewhere that Minister of National Security Robert Montague was proposing conjugal visits for inmates of Jamaica's prisons.

Of course, people are going to be up in arms. My immediate concern is, where will these visits take place? But, beyond that, I think it's a great idea.

There are already educational programmes in Jamaican prisons; this would represent another step to improving what, for decades, has been a bad situation.

Prisons are overcrowded and outdated. Cells are small and hold five times the number of inmates they were built to accommodate.

There is a lot of tension in these environments and it takes very little to spark something violent wherein someone could be badly hurt, or worse, killed.

Allowing conjugal visits, I believe, would take away some of that tension. A man spending some time with his woman or a woman with her man, gives that inmate a chance to have a conversation, release his or her sexual tensions and generally take the edge off.

It is also a strong incentive for good behaviour which could eventually lead to a more harmonious environment, because nothing makes a man happier than knowing he is about to 'get some'.

Will it solve the problem of rapes and other incidents of sexual assaults? Not necessarily.

Some men locked up inside prison walls are sexual predators and, as such, will prey on those they perceive to be weak. So conjugal visits won't necessarily change them.

However, it could make life in prison a bit more bearable and help reduce incidents of sexual assault.

Whether we like to believe it or not, there is a lot of sexual tension happening behind prison walls and it manifests in violent and non-violent ways and can cause the spread of STIs.

Conjugal visits could change all that and help pave the way for other reforms in prison that will make better citizens of the men and women locked up in them.

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