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.
Keywords:conjugal rights, prisoners' rights, rehabilitation, African prisons, conjugal visits
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