Sexual offenses between inmates occur less often in states that allow conjugal visitation

Mar 21, 2012

Could widespread conjugal visitation reduce sexual offending in prisons? It's a possibility, according to Stewart D'Alessio and his team from Florida International University in the US. Their work shows that in states where conjugal visits are permitted, there are significantly fewer instances of reported rape and other sexual offenses in their prisons. The study is published online in Springer's American Journal of Criminal Justice.

At present, there are two opposing theories of the causes of sexual violence. The feminist perspective asserts that sexual violence is motivated primarily by an offender's desire to exert power and control over another individual. Therefore, according to this theory, conjugal visitation should have little or no effect on sexual offending in prison. In contrast, sexual gratification theory argues that the ultimate motivation for rape and sexual violence is to achieve sexual gratification. Therefore, based on this view, conjugal visitation should reduce sexual offending in prison.

D'Alessio and colleagues put the two theories to the test, and analyzed data for the 50 US states from 2004-2006 from a combination of sources - the Directory of Adult and Juvenile Correctional Departments; Sexual Violence Reported by Correctional Authorities; and an article published in Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law - to elucidate the relationship between conjugal visitation and the amount of sexual violence behind prison walls. They compared the number of yearly inmate-on-inmate sexual offenses reported to prison officials, (including non-consensual sexual acts and abusive sexual contacts) between states where inmates are allowed conjugal visits and those where the practice is not permitted.

After taking into account the size of the *, the researchers found that the rate of sexual violence was significantly lower in states that allowed conjugal visitation: 57 incidents per 100,000 inmates compared with 226 incidents per 100,000 in states that do not allow the practice. This finding casts doubt on the feminist perspective and supports sexual gratification theory.

The authors comment: "The observed negative effect of conjugal visitation on sexual offending suggests that more states should consider allowing conjugal visitation as a means to attenuate in prison. Conjugal visitation has also been reported to promote family bonding, better inmate discipline and post release adjustment and socialization."

According to the authors, treatment programs in prisons should be geared to view sexual offending as a sex crime instead of solely as a crime of power, and the use of controversial chemical castration may be an effective strategy to reduce rape and other types of sexual offending.

Explore further: You can't write a CV on a smartphone – digital literacy is no help to unemployed youth

More information: D'Alessio SJ et al (2012). The effect of conjugal visitation on sexual violence in prison. American Journal of Criminal Justice; DOI:10.1007/s12103-012-9155-5

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

More than 1,100 rapes daily in DRCongo: study

May 11, 2011

More than 1,100 women are raped every day in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), making sexual violence against women 26 times more common than previously thought, a study concluded Wednesday.

Sex in Australian prisons: the facts

Apr 13, 2011

We all know what goes on in prison. Or do we? A study examining sexual behaviour and sexual culture in jails in NSW and Queensland suggests that popular beliefs about prison sex are largely myths.

New study challenges stereotypes of adolescent sex offenders

Jul 19, 2010

Adolescent sex offenders are often stereotyped and treated as socially inept, but new research negates this image, finding that they are more likely to be characterized by atypical sexual interests -- such as desire for prepubescent ...

Female sex offenders often have mental problems

May 14, 2008

Women who commit sexual offences are just as likely to have mental problems or drug addictions as other violent female criminals. This according to the largest study ever conducted of women convicted of sexual offences in ...

Recommended for you

Feeling bad at work can be a good thing

17 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Research by the University of Liverpool suggests that, contrary to popular opinion, it can be good to feel bad at work, whilst feeling good in the workplace can also lead to negative outcomes.

3Qs: Citizen journalism in Ferguson

19 hours ago

Tensions have escalated in Ferguson, Missouri, following the Aug. 9 shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager, by a white police officer. The incident has led to peaceful protests ...

Social inequality worsens in New Zealand

19 hours ago

Research by Dr Lisa Marriott, an associate professor in Victoria's School of Accounting and Commercial Law, and Dr Dalice Sim, Statistical Consultant in the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Operations Research, builds ...

User comments : 0