Conjugal Visits in Prisons Discourse: Is it Even an Offender Rehabilitation Option in Africa?




Conjugal rights issue in prisons is indeed an old debate. This article reviewed the literature on the genesis of prisoners’ conjugal visits programme, its global prevalence and the scholarly debate for and against its provision to understand if it can be a rehabilitation option in African countries’ prisons. It has been noted that conjugal visits programme was haphazardly started in the 1900s in Mississippi before becoming an official programme in 1989. Though they were discontinued later in 2014 in Mississippi, conjugal visits are still provided in many penitentiary facilities in America, Europe, Asia and Africa. Studies have revealed that conjugal visits are capable of reducing the problems of homosexuality, sexual assaults and physical violence in prisons. It has also been observed that, apart from the fact that denial of conjugal rights to the prisoners’ spouse could be a form of punishment to innocent victims, conjugal visits can be incentives for good prisoners’ behaviour and rehabilitation in prisons. However, apart from the fact the programme is likely to be expensive and costly to African countries whom their general strife is prisoners’ overcrowding, most of the arguments against conjugal visits are moral-based such as that the programme is likely to perpetrate one-parent family system and is prone to abuse by both prisoners and prison staff. It has, therefore, been concluded that it cannot hurt anybody if legally married prisoners and their spouses are provided with a right to enjoy conjugal visits especially in those jurisdictions which have embraced rehabilitation philosophy.


conjugal rights, prisoners' rights, rehabilitation, African prisons, conjugal visits


Download data is not yet available.


BBC News. (2000, June 29). Sex on sentence. BBC News Online.

Ben Avraham, H. (2012). Prisoners’ conjugation.

Burton, P., Pelser, E., & Gondwe, L. (2005). Understanding offending. Prisoners and rehabilitation in Malawi.

California Department of Corrections. (2003). Inmate visiting guidelines. CDCR.

Carlson, B. E. & Cervera, N. (1991). Inmates and their wives. Greenwood.

Cavan, R. S. & Zemans. (1958). Marital relationships of prisoners in twenty-eight countries. The Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology and Police Science, 49(1), 50- 57.

Chabana, C. (2017, June 28). SA should consider conjugal visits in prison. News 24.

Clemmer, D. (1950). Observations on imprisonment as a source of criminality. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology (1931-1951), 41(3), 311-319.

Duba, N. (2016). The status of prisoners’ right to conjugal visit in Ethiopia (Master thesis, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia).

Durrant, R. (2013). An introduction to criminal psychology. Routledge.

Einat, T. & Rabinovitz, S. (2012). A warm touch in a cold cell: Inmates’ views on conjugal visits in a maximum-security women’s prison in Israel. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 57(12) 1522–1545.

Einat, T. (2017). Conjugal visits. In K. R. Kerley (Ed.), The Encyclopedia of Corrections. John Wiley & Sons.

Gates, N. et al. v Collier, J. et al. (1972). 349 Fed. Supp. 881. US District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi.

Goetting, A. (1982). Conjugal association in prison: The debate and its resolutions. New England Journal on Prison Law, 8, 141-154.

Goyal, S. (2018). Conjugal rights of prisoners. Bharati Law Review, 57-73.

Hensley, C., Koscheski, M. & Tewksbury, R. (2002). Does participation in conjugal visitation reduce prison violence in Mississippi? An exploratory study. Criminal Justice Review, 27(1), 52-65.

Hensley, C., Rutland, S. & Gray-Ray, P. (2000). Inmate attitudes toward the conjugal visitation program in Mississippi prisons: An exploratory study. American Journal of Criminal Justice, 25(1).

Hopper, C. B. (1962). The conjugal visit at the Mississippi State Penitentiary. Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology and Police Science, 53, 340-44.

Hopper, C. B. (1969). Sex in prison: The Mississippi experiment in conjugal visiting. Louisiana State University Press.

Hopper, C. B. (1989). The evolution of conjugal visiting in Mississippi. The Prison Journal, 69(1), 103 – 110,

Howser, J., Grossman, J., & MacDonald, D. (1983). Impact of family reunion programs on institutional discipline. Journal of Offender Counseling Services and Rehabilitation, 8, 27-36.

Israel Prison Service. (2012). Inmates statistics. Retrieved from

Kitta, T. (2015, June 18). Malawi Law Commissions, stakeholders review the Prison Act. Malawi News Agency (MANA) Online.

Knowles, G. J. (1999). Male prison rape: A search for causation and prevention. The Howard Journal, 38, 267-282.

Krahn, N. M. W., Arruda, J. S. & Costa, J. C. (2020). Conjugal visits in the context of incarceration of women and girls in the State of Bahia, Brazil: Permissions, prohibitions and (in)visibilities. Oñati Socio-Legal Series, 10(2), 415-441.

Lusaka Times. (2018, January 25). Allow sex in prison, says the Prison Care and Counselling Association.

Magombo, K. (2016, October 21). Sex on sentence in Malawi prisons non-starter – Law Commission. Nyasa Times.

Majaliwa, C. (2012, November 2). Tanzania: Conjugal rights to be granted to prisoners. Tanzania Daily News.

Masangano v Attorney General & Others. (2009). MWHC 31 (15 of 2007 in the High Court). Malawi LII.

Mbewe, K. (2016, May 28). Prisons conjugal visits on cards. Zambia Daily Mail.

McElreath, D. H., Doss, D. A., Jensen III, C. J., Wigginton, M. P., Mallory, S., Lyons, T., Williamson, L. & Jones, D. W. (2016). The end of the Mississippi experiment with conjugal visitation. The Prison Journal, 96(5), 752-764.

Murray, J., Farrington, D. P., Sekol, I. & Olsen, R. F. (2009). Effects of parental imprisonment on child antisocial behaviour and mental health: A systematic review. The Campbell Collaboration.

Mustin, J. (1980). The Family: A critical factor for corrections.

Mwangi, W. (2019, April 5). Inmates demand conjugal rights, balanced diet and right to bury kin. Nairobi News.

Nacci, P., & Kane, T. (1983). The incidence of sex and sexual aggression in Federal prisons. Federal Probation, 7, 31-36.

New Mexico Department of Corrections. (2006). Inmate visitations.

Nzangaya, A. (2016, May 24). Activists want inmates to have sex in prisons. Malawi 24.

Phakathi, M. (2012, October 12). Swaziland: Allowing conjugal visits - a premature adjudication? Think Africa Press.

Phiri, S. (2016, July 16). CHREAA supports conjugal rights for prisoners. MBC.

Presse, F. (2018, July 15). Tanzania president says prisoners should be kicked and made to work 'day and night'. The Guardian.

Republic of Malawi. (2010). The Constitution of the Republic of Malawi. Government Press.

Robertson, J. E. (2003). A clean heart and an empty head: The Supreme Court and sexual terrorism in prison. North California Law Review, 81, 433-481.

Rweyemamu, A. (2018, July 15). JPM: This is how Tanzania prisons should be run. IPP Media.

Schneller, D. P. (1976). The prisoners’ families. A study of the effects of imprisonment on the families of prisoners. R and E Research Associates.

Shamel, N. (2004, October). Authorities are debating the necessity of conjugal visits, but are they not setting the forest for the trees? Egypt Today. Retrieved from

Shayi, F. (2008). Sexual practices in South African prisons from the perspective of Christian ethics (Doctoral thesis, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa).

Sichone, C. (2019, April 2). Zambia: Woman rights for prisoners... ZCS considering conjugal visits for inmates. Times of Zambia.

Singh, A. & Dasgupta, A. (2015). Prisoners’ conjugal visitation rights in India: Changing perspectives. Christ University Law Journal, 4(2), 73-88.

Smit, D. V. Z. & Dunker, F. (Eds.). (2001). Imprisonment today and tomorrow: International perspective on prison rights and prison conditions. Kluwer Law International.

Tapfumaneyi, R. (2019, August 23). No relaxation on inmates’ conjugal rights ban – ZPCS. New Zimbabwe.

Thompson, C., & Loper, A. B. (2005). Adjustment patterns in incarcerated woman: An analysis of differences based on sentence length. Behavioral Sciences & the Law, 32, 714-732.

University of Minnesota. (2018). Ratification of International Human Rights Treaties – Malawi. Human Rights Library.

UNODC. 2015. United Nations standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners. (The Mandela Rules). United Nations.>

Washington Department of Corrections. (2005). DOC guide for friends and family of incarcerated offenders. Retrieved from

Wyatt, R. (2006). Male rape in U.S. prisons: Are conjugal visits the answer. Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law, 37(2), 579-614.

Yakubu, S. (2018). The rights of inmates to conjugal rights: Uganda in perspective. Unilag Law Review, 2(1).






Review Article

How to Cite

Kajawo, S. C. R. (2021). Conjugal Visits in Prisons Discourse: Is it Even an Offender Rehabilitation Option in Africa?. Advanced Journal of Social Science, 8(1), 67–76.