Conjugal visits a thing of the past as it should be

Published 12:02am Wednesday, December 18, 2013

For the few married, well-behaved inmates in the Mississippi Department of Corrections system, things will get a little less happy when Feb. 1 rolls around.

MDOC Commissioner Christopher B. Epps announced this week the group would stop practice of conjugal visits — allowed to those with good behavior — on Feb. 1.

Conjugal visits in Mississippi date back for decades. The practice was, undoubtedly, aimed and simply controlling unruly inmates back in the day. It was certainly a part of a very harsh carrot-and-stick means of keeping things under control.

The logic of the conjugal visits was simple — allowing intimate time with one’s spouse was the ultimate carrot to woo inmates into good behavior. Conjugal visits would have begun at a time when what would now be dubbed abuse was the order of the day in the state prison.

Interestingly the MDOC reports that during the last fiscal year only 155 of the more than 22,000 inmates were eligible for conjugal visits under the program. That’s less than 1 percent of the inmate population.

Epps said he wanted to stop the visits for two reasons. First the visits cost MDOC — read: the taxpayers — additional expense as prison guards must escort inmates to and from the location where visits are allowed.

Epps also said even though the state provided contraception no one knows how many children are born from such visits, thus leading to more one-parent situations, which in many cases exacerbates additional social problems the costs of which are often borne by taxpayers.

We applaud Epps for standing up for the taxpayers and for common sense applied to what was clearly a well-intentioned program whose best days are far in its past.