Conjugal Visits

A conjugal visit refers to a period of time inmates are permitted to spend with a visitor in private, outside of the supervision of prison authorities. This visitor is usually the legal spouse of the inmate, but it can also be other members of their family or even friends.

In Australia, conjugal visits are permitted only in Victoria. Conjugal visits are not allowed in New South Wales or anywhere else in the country.

What is a Conjugal Visit?

A conjugal visit is a form of prison visitation in which an inmate’s loved one – usually their spouse – is permitted to visit them for a period without supervision. This period can range from hours to days.

The Purpose of Conjugal Visits

Conjugal visits can be extremely beneficial for the well-being of prisoners. The isolation prisoners feel from their intimate family members is well-documented. Conjugal family visits can be significant in ameliorating this sense of isolation for prisoners and their families.

A traditional prison visit is strictly supervised. Conjugal visits differ in the sense that they occur without any supervision.

Conjugal visits are commonly associated with sexual relations between spouses. When conjugal visits were briefly permitted in the Australian Capital Territory in 2011, inmates were provided with “domestic surroundings” and birth control. This kind of contact is understood to be crucial to the maintenance of healthy relationships.

Conjugal visits can also take place with other members of an inmate’s family, including their children or siblings. Just like spousal relationships, spending time with these loved ones outside of the supervision of prison authorities can be tremendously significant for the well-being of inmates.

Conjugal Visits in NSW

Conjugal visits are not permitted in NSW. There are 2 types of prison inmate visits in NSW. The first is contact visits, in which physical contact between inmates and visitors is allowed. The second is non-contact visits, in which visitors and inmates are placed in an environment in which physical contact is not possible. This usually involves separating the visitor and the inmate with a piece of glass.

Legislation for Conjugal Visits in NSW

Inmate visitation in NSW is covered under the Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Regulation 2014.

Section 100 states that: “Visits to inmates may be either contact visits, in which the inmate and the visitor are permitted physical contact with each other, or non-contact visits, in which the visit takes place in an environment in which physical contact is prevented.”

Section 102 states that: “A visit must take place within sight of a correctional officer unless the governor permits otherwise.”

As such, conjugal visits are generally not permitted under the Regulation, although there is an allowance for prison governors to permit visits to take place outside of the sight of a correctional officer. In practice, however, it is commonly understood that conjugal visits simply do not occur in NSW.

Where are Conjugal Visits Permitted in Australia?

In Australia, conjugal visits are only allowed in Victoria. The most recent jurisdiction other than Victoria to allow conjugal visits was the Australian Capital Territory. The ACT’s Alexander Maconochie Centre briefly allowed conjugal visits in 2011, before quickly halting the program due to security concerns.

Conditions Required for a Conjugal Visit

Conjugal visits in Victoria are allowed at the 5 following prisons:

  • Tarrengower Prison
  • Marngoneet Prison
  • Loddon Prison
  • Fulham Prison
  • Beechworth Prison

To be eligible to receive a conjugal visit in Victoria, the following conditions must be met:

  • The prisoner is either a medium or minimum security inmate.
  • The prisoner is serving an imprisonment sentence of 18 months or more.
  • The visitor has been screened and is part of the prison’s approved visitor list.

Do You Have to be Married for a Conjugal Visit?

Section 38 of Victoria’s Corrections Act 1986 lays out the following guidelines for prison visitation:

“(1)     The Secretary may in accordance with the regulations by instrument approve contact visiting programmes under which a prisoner’s family and friends may visit and have physical contact with the prisoner.

(2)     The Secretary may in accordance with the regulations by instrument approve residential visiting programmes under which a prisoner’s family may stay with the prisoner in the prison.

(4) In this section family of a prisoner includes— (a) a near relative of the prisoner; and (b) any other person who has a long standing close personal relationship with the prisoner.”

This means that conjugal visits in Victoria are not limited to spouses. In practice, conjugal visits as implemented by Corrections Victoria revolve around intimate partners as well as the children of inmates.

Can You Get Married in Jail in Australia?

Yes, weddings are allowed in prisons in Australia. In NSW, inmates can apply to be married inside a correctional facility by filling in section A of the Application for marriage within section 9.1 of the Custodial Operations Policy and Procedures handbook.

Are You Still Allowed to Visit Your Partner in Prison?

Yes, the majority of prisoners are able to receive visitors from partners. In NSW, visits to inmates consist of contact visits, wherein you are allowed to touch, hug and kiss the inmate, and non-contact visits, where the visitor and the inmate are separated, usually by glass. Similar protocols are followed throughout Australia.

You can find out more about visiting an inmate at the Corrective Services NSW website.

Should NSW Prisons Permit Conjugal Visits?

Conjugal visits are a controversial subject. Many activists and relatives of inmates have pushed for conjugal visits to be allowed throughout Australia, arguing that they are fundamental to a humane prison system. Many other countries allow conjugal visits, including Brazil, Canada, France and Mexico.

Below is a summary of some of the key arguments for and against allowing such visits in Australia.

Reasons For Australian Prisons Allowing Conjugal Visits

  • Experts believe allowing inmates to have intimate contact with partners during conjugal visits can reduce levels of sexual prison violence.
  • Extended family visits can be massively beneficial in helping inmates maintain family relationships. Family relationships have been identified by experts and authorities alike as being crucial for reintegration into society and reduced recidivism. Reduced recidivism is good for convicted criminals, their loved ones and community safety.
  • Victoria permits conjugal visits only for selected prisoners, at the discretion of the prison governor. This means conjugal visits serve as an incentive for the good behaviour of prisoners.
  • Advocates for conjugal prison visits believe that they represent a fundamental human right that does not need to be removed during imprisonment. The UN Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners states that “except for those limitations that are demonstrably necessitated by the fact of incarceration, all prisoners shall retain the human rights and fundamental freedoms set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

Reasons Against Australian Prisons Allowing Conjugal Visits

  • It can be argued that conjugal visits are too enjoyable for inmates to be permitted. Isolation from family members is one way to punish inmates for the crime committed and to disincentivize potential criminals from going down the same path.
  • Conjugal visits are rife with safety concerns. In 2010, a German inmate murdered his girlfriend before attempting suicide during a conjugal visit. Inmates are often dangerous individuals. As such, it can be argued that they should never be let out of the supervision of jail staff.
  • In Victoria, conjugal visits take place in a private, motel-type setting separated from regular visitor rooms. This setup represents an additional cost to the taxpayer, who already sees millions of public dollars go towards the housing of prisoners. Conjugal visits can be seen as an undue luxury that is not worth the cost.

Visiting an Inmate: How it Works

Prison visitation is crucially important for the well-being of inmates and their loved ones. Once you’ve located the correctional facility in which your loved one is housed, you can contact the facility to book your visit.

Establishing Proof of Identity with a 100-Point Check

For first-time visits, adults are required to provide ID in order to obtain a visitor ID number. For subsequent visits, adults must carry ID and produce it when requested. Children under the age of 18 do not need to produce ID to visit a prison, as long as they are accompanied by an adult.

For their first-time visit, adults must produce 1 document from List 1 and 3 documents from List 2.

List 1 – 1 document required

  • current Driver Licence
  • proof of age card issued by Service NSW (or equivalent from interstate)
  • current passport or one that has expired within the last 2 years

List 2 – 3 documents required

  • Birth Certificate
  • evidence of enrolment from the Australian Electoral Commission
  • public utility account e.g. water, gas, electricity and/or telephone issued within six months of the date of intended visit
  • current registration papers (motor vehicle or boat)
  • marriage certificate
  • Australian citizenship or entitlement card issued by a government department, agency or authority e.g. a pension card
  • Department of Home Affairs papers
  • signed credit or debit card

Biometric Enrolment

16 correctional centres in NSW utilise a biometric enrolment system. These systems photograph a visitor’s face, scan their irises and capture their fingerprints. This information is retained for subsequent visits, and networked across all other correctional centres within the system, with the exception of the Special Purpose Centre, Long Bay.

Visitors must continue to carry ID when visiting inmates in case the system is not working.

Property, Clothing and Personal Possessions

NSW correctional facilities require visitors the abide by the following dress code:

  • Visitors must wear appropriate clothing to the centre.
    • The following are prohibited: exposed midriffs; low-cut, backless, sleeveless, or strapless shirts; singlets; short skirts; and shorts.
  • Visitors must remove all jewellery, including ear and body piercings. Wedding bands are permitted.
  • Visitors must not wear hooded jumpers or jackets, scarves, handkerchiefs, hats or sunglasses.

Additionally, visitors cannot take personal items such as wallets, purses, jewellery, cigarettes, lighters or mobile phones into the visits area. These items must be left in a locker in the visiting reception area.

Visitors cannot bring prohibited items into a correctional centre. Prohibited items include:

  • Guns
  • Knives
  • Alcohol
  • Syringes

Correctional Services has dogs that are trained to identify prohibited items. If staff have reasonable suspicion that a visitor is carrying prohibited items, they may be asked to remove outer clothing, as may any children who are accompanying them. CSNSW staff are not permitted to conduct strip searches of visitors.

Personal visitors to correctional centres are subject to full-body X-ray scanning. Visitors may refuse to be scanned, in which case they will either be asked to leave the correctional facility or may be offered a non-contact visit.