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The Effect of Conjugal Visitation on Sexual Violence in Prison

Abstract

Using yearly state-level data drawn from a variety of different sources and a pooled cross-sectional time-series research design, we examine whether conjugal visitation attenuates sexual violence in prison. The determination of whether sexual violence in prison is less apt to transpire in states that allow conjugal visitation is theoretically relevant. Feminist theory argues that conjugal visitation has little if any influence on the occurrence of rape and other sexual offenses in prison, notwithstanding the gender of the offender and victim, because such offenses are crimes of power that are employed by the offender as an instrument to dominate and humiliate the victim. On the other hand, sexual gratification theory postulates that conjugal visitation provides inmates with a means of sexual release. Therefore, conjugal visitation should reduce sexual offending in prison. Results support sexual gratification theory by showing that states permitting conjugal visitation have significantly fewer instances of reported rape and other sexual offenses in their prisons. The policy implications of these findings are discussed.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. A supplemental analysis was conducted to assess the impact of conjugal visitation on nonconsensual sexual acts and abusive sexual contacts separately. The conjugal visitation variable was statistically significant in the nonconsensual sexual acts equation (b = −59.47, p < .01) and in the abusive sexual contacts equation (b = −23.81, p < .05).

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Correspondence to Stewart J. D’Alessio.

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This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

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D’Alessio, S.J., Flexon, J. & Stolzenberg, L. The Effect of Conjugal Visitation on Sexual Violence in Prison. Am J Crim Just 38, 13–26 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12103-012-9155-5

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Keywords

  • Conjugal visitation
  • Sexual offending
  • Prison