(Jackson, MS) The Mississippi Department of Corrections will no longer allow conjugal visits as of Feb. 1, 2014.
In a news release, MDOC Commissioner Christopher B. Epps said he is ending the privilege given to eligible, legally married individuals for budgetary reasons and the number of babies being born possibly as a result.
“There are costs associated with the staff’s time, having to escort inmates to and from the visitation facility, supervising personal hygiene and keeping up the infrastructure of the facility,” Epps said. “Then, even though we provide contraception, we have no idea how many women are getting pregnant only for the child to be raised by one parent.”
Only medium or minimum-custody inmates with an acceptable level of good behavior have been eligible to participate in the conjugal visit program.
Eligible inmates cannot have a rules violation report – a report written after a rule is broken – within the last six months.
Longtime jail chaplain Novella Smith Arnold of Memphis said Mississippi is bound to get an earful over it.
“They’re asking for a lot of problems,” she said. “If they did it, they had a reason to allow it. And all of a sudden to close shop?”
Arnold says such visits have always been problematic, and fears it will create a host of other problems.
Mississippi is one of only six states that allow conjugal visits, but the state corrections commissioner says he can’t afford to keep allowing them.
DeSoto Sheriff Bill Rasco calls the visits and unnecessary distraction and said, “(It’s an) extra cost to the taxpayers of the State of Mississippi when you have to hire all these special people.”
“I don’t think you need ’em,” he said. “If somebody’s committed a crime, he needs to pay for is crime. He doesn’t have to have special privilege.’
But those who deal up close and personal with inmates say they believe stopping one problem will create another.
“They’re now gonna have an epidemic in the prison system there,” Arnold said.
In September, Epps ended the extended family visitation program.
Any conjugal visits that have already been scheduled between now and Feb. 1 will be allowed.
Of the more than 22,000 inmates, only 155 inmates were allowed conjugal visits in the last fiscal year. Visitation can be weekly, except on the fifth Saturdays and Sundays.