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The Effect of Conjugal Visitation on Sexual Violence in Prison


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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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The Effect of Conjugal Visitation on Sexual Violence in Prison
Stewart J. DAlessio &Jamie Flexon &
Lisa Stolzenberg
Received: 2 August 2011 /Accepted: 15 January 2012
#Southern Criminal Justice Association 2012
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, notwith-
standing 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 gratifica-
tion 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.
Am J Crim Just
DOI 10.1007/s12103-012-9155-5
This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-
profit sectors.
S. J. DAlessio (*)
Department of Criminal Justice, Florida International University, 11200 SW 8th Street, PCA-263B,
Miami, FL 33199, USA
J. Flexon
Department of Criminal Justice, Florida International University, 11200 SW 8th Street, PCA-366A,
Miami, FL 33199, USA
L. Stolzenberg
Department of Criminal Justice, Florida International University, 11200 SW 8th Street, PCA-253A,
Miami, FL 33199, USA
Keywords Conjugal visitation .Sexual offending .Prison
Sexual violence remains a persistent problem in our society. Although undercounted,
there were 248,280 incidents of rape and sexual assault reported in the U.S. during 2007
(Department of Justice, 2010). The analysis of victimization data further highlights the
pervasive nature of the sexual violence problem in America. In a recent analysis of
national victimization data, Basile, Chen, Black and Saltzman (2007) report that one
in 59 adults were victims of forced sex and unwanted sexual activity within the
12 months prior to their being interviewed. One in 15 adults surveyed also indicated
at least one past sexual victimization that occurred during their lifetime. The majority
of these victims experienced their first victimization during childhood or ado-
lescence when they were most vulnerable. These early victimizations are trou-
bling in that they amplify the risk of future sexual victimizations (Tjaden &
Thoennes, 2006).
The physical and psychological harm experienced by victims of sexual violence
are well documented in the literature. Victims of sexual violence often require some
form of medical and or psychological treatment following the occurrence of the
crime, and this treatment frequently continues for many years beyond the original
assault (Draucker & Martsolf, 2010). Substance abuse, depression and psychological
symptoms similar to posttraumatic stress disorder are just a few of the problems likely
to manifest themselves following a sexual assault (Marx, 2005). Rape victims also
have a substantially higher susceptibility to lifelong physical ailments such as fibro-
myalgia and chronic pain among other disorders (Paras et al., 2009).
Beyond the physical and psychological trauma endured by the victim, there is
additional harm incurred in the form of economic, familial, social and community strain.
The victim of sexual violence often faces financial hardship because of the monetary cost
associated with immediate and long-term treatment (Golding, Stein, Siegel, Burnam &
Sorenson, 1988). Victims of sexual violence commonly miss work, which in turn
affects them financially, and has adverse consequences for their families, employers
and the community. Family, friends and other caregivers can also be described as
secondary victims in that they frequently experience significant stress in their efforts
to cope with the harm engendered by the sexual violence (Campbell & Wasco,
While theory pertaining to the causes of sexual violence is broad and diverse, two
divergent perspectives can be distinguished. This classification inevitably simplifies
some substantive theoretical issues, but it identifies the essential differences between
the two positions. One prominent view asserts that sexual violence results primarily
from an offenders desire to exert power and control over another individual
(Brownmiller, 1975). The appeal of the feminist perspective in explaining sexual
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violence is illustrated by its prominence in the literature. It has been used to explain
rape generally (Hockett, Saucier, Hoffman, Smith & Craig, 2009; Martin, Vieraitis &
Britto, 2006) and also various forms of sexual violence including college campus
assaults (Armstrong, Hamilton & Sweeney, 2006), premarital rape (Christopher,
Madura & Weaver, 1998), marital rape (Bennice & Resick, 2003), acquaintance rape
(Chiroro, Bohner, Viki & Jarvis, 2004), sexual victimizations in the military (Hillman,
2009), and male-on-male rape (Man & Cronan, 2001)
According to this perspective, the sexual aspect of a rape or other sexual offense is
not motivationally relevant because a sexual offense is viewed as sexual behavior in
the primary service of non-sexual needs(Groth, 1979:13). A major supposition
within this theoretical perspective is that some type of animusdirected at the victim
is a precipitating causal factor in the occurrence of sexual violence (Gaffney,
1997:264). Hence, studies using a feminist orientation as their theoretical foundation
view the problem of sexual violence as rooted in the larger social structure whereby
those with power victimize a lesser positioned, more vulnerable target.
Evidence suggests that those enjoying a traditionally dominant status in society or
engaged in a culture promoting rape mythsare more likely to hold beliefs that
justify sexually violent behavior (Hockett et al., 2009). Rape myths are a body of
false beliefs and stereotypes that are employed by the offender to shift the blame for
an attack to the victim (Burt, 1980; Suarez & Gadalla, 2010). In this way, the
perceived harm to the victim can be excused or not even acknowledged (Littleton,
Breitkopf & Berenson, 2008). Adherence to such beliefs also serves to sustain the
pervasiveness of sexual violence by rationalizing the actions of the powerful. Of note,
research examining the role that these sexual stereotypes play in sexual offending
behavior finds that rationalizing thoughts are transmitted culturally to both men and
women (Glick et al., 2000) via what has been termed a rape promoting culture
(Sanday, 1981).
In support of the feminist perspective, a positive correlation is reported between
sexual hostility and rape myth acceptance (Chapleau, Oswald & Russell, 2007).
Males are not only more likely than females to accept and internalize rape myths,
but they are also more apt to report enhanced feelings of sexual hostility and to
include dominance themes in their sexual fantasies (Zurbriggen & Yost, 2004). These
characteristics that males exhibit are likely a reflection of their historical dominance
(Glick et al., 2000). Research also illustrates a connection between sexually aggres-
sive behavior and the endorsement of rape myths among men who conform to
masculine values, i.e., having power over women, being dominant and being violent
(Locke & Mahalik, 2005). When considered in its totality, this body of research
suggests that there is a linkage between cultural messages of dominance and the
incidence and promotion of sexual violence in society.
A second widely adduced perspective, which is drawn from the literature on
evolutionary psychology, is commonly referred to as sexual gratification theory.
This theory proffers that the ultimate motivation for rape and sexual violence
generally is not to control and dominate the victim but rather to achieve sexual
gratification. Proponents of sexual gratification theory conceive of sexual violence
as an alternative mating strategy employed by individuals when opportunities for
consensual sex are lacking (Thornhill & Palmer, 2000) or when the sexual offense
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provides the offender with a relatively expedient and low cost means to achieve
sexual gratification (Medea & Thompson, 1974).
There is a sizable amount of empirical evidence to support the proposition that
rape and sexual assault are sexually motivated crimes rather than crimes of power.
First, because it circumvents the mating choice of a woman, rape it is viewed as a
reproductive strategy to perpetuate a rapists genes. Validating this assertion is the
finding that female rape victims are younger on average and are more likely to be in
their childbearing ages than are women victims of other violent crimes such as
robbery (Thornhill & Palmer, 2000). The probability of pregnancy following a rape
is also similar to the probability of pregnancy following unprotected consensual sex
(Fessler, 2003). This similarity in the likelihood of pregnancy is speculated to result
from the victim being less apt to use contraception immediately prior to the rape
because the victim did not anticipate being raped, from rapists being less likely to use
contraception during a rape than during consensual sex, and from visual cues like
appearance and smell that may suggest to the rapist that the victim is ovulating and
can be impregnated (Miller, Tybur & Jordan, 2007).
Second, in contrast to crimes such as robbery and assault, the crime of rape rarely
culminates in serious injury to the victim (Thornhill & Palmer, 2000). In the few instances
where death occurs, the rape victim is much more likely to be of pre-childbearing age than
of childbearing age. And this relationship exists despite the fact that very young rape
victims are generally less reliable than older rape victims in identifying the offender.
Third, some studies find that rapists, especially when the victim and offender are
acquainted with each other, often form a long-term relationship following the rape
(Thornhill & Palmer, 2000). These long-term relationships are more likely to occur if
the rape act was completed rather than just attempted (Ellis, 1989). It is also argued
that if rape is used as a means to dominate & control the victim, then why does a man
usually attempt to be charming and courteous immediately prior to an acquaintance
rape? One possible answer to this question is that the man only used coercion and
force after his initial attempt to copulate with the female failed. Men also often
apologize after a date rape for having to use force (Ellis, 1989).
Fourth, recent research finds that the ratio of men to women in the population is
correlated strongly with male-on-female intimate violence. Drawing from evolutionary
psychology, DAlessio and Stolzenberg (2010) proffered that a high sex ratio (i.e., more
men than women in the population) increased male sexual competition for female mates.
This escalation in competition among men for women resulted in sexual jealousy, which
in turn engendered more male-on-female intimate partner violence. Male-on-female
intimate partner violence is viewed within this framework as a mechanism of control that
men employ to help ensure the sexual fidelity of their female mates. Analyzing data
drawn from the Federal Bureau of Investigations National Incident-Based Reporting
System (NIBRS) and the Census, DAlessio and Stolzenberg found that a high sex ratio
increased male-on-female intimate partner violence. They also found that male-on-
female intimate partner violence occurred more frequently in cities with greater female
labor force participation. They speculated that participation in the workforce enhanced a
womans ability to meet and associate with men other than her spouse or boyfriend.
Lastly, gang rapes are relatively rare (Reiss, 1988). Gang rapes are theorized to be
relatively rare because a bond is less likely to form between any of the male offenders
and the female victim, because sperm competition increases with multiple offenders,
Am J Crim Just
and because confidence of paternity decreases when multiple offenders are involved.
Male rapists are also more likely to urinate on their victims in a gang rape than in a
solo-rape (Holmstrom & Burgess, 1980). Again, this is ancillary evidence that
multiple male rapists are in competition with each other to impregnate the female
and are using urine to mark the female victim. Lastly, the few chemical castration
studies conducted in the U.S. and abroad report that sex offenders on the drug Depo
Provera, which acts to reduce the offenders sex drive, are significantly less likely to
recidivate (Grubin, 2008; Maletzky, Tolan & McFarland, 2006).
Conjugal Visitation and Sexual Offending in Violence
Because of the protracted debate in the literature, additional research is necessary
before a defensible position can be reached on the validity of feminist and sexual
gratification theory. However, it is important to recognize that the analysis of male-
on-female sexual offending is not the only way to gain fresh insight into the veracity
of these two perspectives. Another way is to probe the relationship between conjugal
visitation and the amount of sexual violence that transpires behind prison walls.
Prison sexual violence remains an underdeveloped research area and has led some
to lament that it is Americas most ignored crime problem(Dumond, 2003; Miller,
2010). Although the sexual violence occurring in prison is likely to be underreported
to authorities because of concerns of safety, stigma and humiliation (Miller, 2010),
victimization studies indicate that it is a pervasive problem. It is estimated that in
2007 approximately 60,500 inmates or about 4.5% of all the inmates housed in state
and federal correctional facilities experienced one or more incidents of sexual vic-
timization (Beck & Harrison, 2007a,b). Other victimization studies also suggest that
rape and sexual assault transpire with relative frequency in prison. Hensley,
Tewksbury and Castle (2003) found that about 14% of 174 male inmates surveyed
in Oklahomas correctional facilities claimed that they had been targets of sexual
abuse. In one Southern maximum-security prison, Hensley, Koscheski and
Tewksbury (2005) observed that 18% of the inmates in their sample experienced
sexual threats, while another 8.5% reported a sexual assault to prison authorities. In
another study, Struckman-Johnson, Struckman-Johnson, Rucker, Bumby and
Donaldson (1996) estimated that about 22% of male prison inmates in a
Midwestern state were the victims of some form of forced sexual activity.
A number of different strategies have been recommended to attenuate prison
sexual violence. One potentially fruitful strategy to reduce sexual violence in prison,
which has surprisingly received scant attention, is to allow inmates conjugal visita-
tion. Proponents of conjugal visitation argue that such a policy will reduce violence
generally and sexual aggression specifically among inmates while promoting other
positive outcomes (Wyatt, 2006). Conjugal visitation is reported to promote family
bonding (Carlson & Cervera, 1991), better disciplinary records and post release
adjustment and socialization (Howser, Grossman & MacDonald, 1983). Research
also finds that conjugal visitation influences consensual sexual activity of prison
inmates. In a comparison of U.S. and Mexican prisons, Olivero, Clark, Morgado and
Mounce (1992) found that conjugal visitation, which is typically used in Mexican
prisons, lowered the frequency of prison homosexual activity. However, while a few
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studies have examined the influence of conjugal visitation on violence generally
(Hensley, Koscheski, & Tewksbury, 2002) or questioned inmates (Carlson & Cervera,
1991; Hensley, Rutland & Gray-Ray, 2000), spouses (Carlson & Cervera, 1991) and
prison wardens (Hensley, Tewksbury, & Chiang, 2002) about their perceptions of
conjugal visitation programs, there has yet to be an empirical study focusing specif-
ically on the impact of conjugal visitation on sexual violence.
This lack of research is a critical oversight not only because conjugal visitation
might attenuate sexual violence in prison, but also because a negative relationship
between conjugal visitation and sexual violence, controlling for other relevant factors,
would buttress the logic associated with sexual gratification theory. Sexual gratifica-
tion theory maintains that rape and other sexual offending in male prisons occurs
because women are not readily available. Along these lines studies not only find that
homosexual activity increases when men go to prison (Hensley, Tewksbury &
Wright, 2001), but that most men who participate in homosexual activity in prison
stop their homosexual activity once they leave prison and return to society where
women are available to them.
Conversely, the lack of a substantive relationship between conjugal visitation
and sexual offending would be consistent with the rationale espoused by
feminist theory. The feminist position regarding the factors responsible for the
occurrence of male-on-male rape in confinement facilities is similar to that of
male-on-female rape because in both instances the offender views his victim as
weak and subordinate (Carroll, 1974; Lees, 1997). As Man and Cronan (2001:149)
readily note, “… the exertion of physical power over men resembles rape of females
in that it reinforces the attackers sense of masculinity by making him feel powerful.
Rape thus enhances the masculinity of the offender, notwithstanding the sex of the
victim, by affording him the opportunity to control, dominate and humiliate his
victim (Lees, 1997).
The desire to demonstrate masculinity forcefully is especially poignant in ethnic
power struggles among inmates. These ethnic power struggles often precede sexual
violence in prison (Hensley et al., 2005). Moreover, despite the fact that blacks
outnumber whites in prison, black-on-white rape is far more prevalent than white-
on-black rape (Human Rights Watch, 2001). These interracial sexual assaults typi-
cally involve multiple black offenders and a white victim. This pattern of black-on-
white gang rape might be the manifestation of deep-seated resentment and hostility
among blacks toward whites. The thesis that racial animosity engenders interracial
gang rape is noteworthy because collective violence is a mechanism for addressing
grievances between ethnic groups (Senechal de la Roche, 2001). In sum then, if
feminist theory has any validity, conjugal visitation should have little if any effect on
sexual offending in prison.
This study analyzes longitudinal data for the 50 U.S. states, which are drawn from a
variety of sources. These sources include the Directory of Adult and Juvenile
Correctional Departments (American Correctional, 2005,2006,2007), Sexual
Violence Reported by Correctional Authorities (Beck & Harrison, 2005,2006;
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2007a,b), and an article published in Case Western Reserve Journal of International
Law (Wyatt, 2006). The data reflect the years 2004, 2005, and 2006.
The dependent variable is the number of yearly reported inmate-on-inmate sexual
offenses. During the three-year study period, there were 5,330 inmate-on-inmate
sexual offenses reported to prison correctional authorities in the 50 states. These
sexual offenses include nonconsensual sexual acts and abusive sexual contacts.
Nonconsensual sexual acts are defined as contact of any person without his or her
consent, or of a person who is unable to consent or refuse; and contact between the
penis and the vagina or the penis and the anus including penetration, however slight;
or contact between the mouth and the penis, vagina, or anus; or penetration of the anal
or genital opening of another person by a hand, finger, or other object(Beck &
Harrison, 2005:3). Abusive sexual contacts are defined as contact of any person
without his or her consent, or of a person who is unable to consent or refuse; and
intentional touching, either directly or through the clothing, of the genitalia, anus,
groin, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks of any person(Beck & Harrison, 2005:3).
The key independent variable is conjugal visitation. This variable is coded one
if the state permits inmates conjugal visitation, zero otherwise. The following five
states allowed inmate conjugal visitation during the three-year study period:
California, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, and Washington. Several con-
textual factors besides conjugal visitation may influence the number of inmate
sex offenses, including the state prisoner population, average daily cost per
inmate, number of inmates per correctional officer, percent of correctional officers
who resigned or were terminated, number of assaults on correctional officers,
percent of inmates who are black or African American, percent of inmates who
are under 25 years old, and the percent of inmates housed in maximum security
prisons. These variables were included into the analysis to avoid basing con-
clusions on spurious or suppressed relationships. The means, standard deviations
and definitions for all the variables are displayed in Table 1.
Table 1 Means, standard deviations, and definitions for the variables used in the analysis
Mean Std. dev. Definition
Inmate sex offenses 35.53 90.04 Number of yearly reported inmate-on-inmate sex offenses.
Conjugal visitation .10 .30 Coded 1 if the state allows prisoners conjugal visitation, 0
Prison population 23,687.53 31,415.09 State prison population.
Daily cost 67.87 22.78 Average daily cost per inmate.
Inmate-officer ratio 6.75 6.05 Number of inmates per correctional officer.
Percent officer
16.27 9.34 Percent of correctional officers who resigned or were
Officer assaults 194.59 228.59 Number of assaults on correctional officers.
Percent black 33.95 22.74 Percent of inmates who are black or African American.
Percent under 25 19.28 8.06 Percent of inmates who are under 25 years old.
Percent maximum 9.52 8.42 Percent of inmates housed in maximum security prisons.
Am J Crim Just
We begin our analysis by constructing a figure showing the sexual violence rate for
states that allow and do not allow conjugal visitation. Looking at Fig. 1, we see rather
clearly that there is a visually striking difference between the two groups of states.
The figure shows that the sexual violence rate is substantially lower in states that
allow conjugal visitation. The rate of sexual violence in states that allow conjugal
visitation is 57 incidents per 100,000 inmates, whereas in states that do not allow
conjugal visitation the rate is 226 per 100,000 inmates. Such a finding, although
preliminary, tends to furnish some initial support for sexual gratification theory.
The effects of conjugal visitation and the other explanatory variables on inmate-
on-inmate sexual offending for the 50 states observed over the three-year study period
are reported in Table 2. The pooled cross-sectional time-series research design used
here is ideally suited for studying both the temporal and spatial patterns of conjugal
visitation, because it allows for the analysis of multiple units (50 states) across
multiple time points (20042006). Thus, the analysis of panel data affords us the
ability to consider prison-specific factors that may explain variation in the inmate
sexual offending-conjugal visitation relationship that cannot be determined using a
single time series. Another advantage is that an analysis using panel data necessitates
a smaller number of temporal observations than typically needed in a time-series
analysis. That said a serious shortcoming of using panel data to examine the conjugal
visitation-sexual violence association is that only the short-term relationship between
these two variables is captured in the parameter estimates (Phillips & Greenberg,
2008). However, one should note that the present analysis is not hindered by
this limitation since our focus is on detecting a contemporaneous rather than a
lagged effect.
We used the .05 significance level as the criterion for determining which relation-
ships are consequential. Emphasis should also be placed on the direction of the
coefficient when evaluating the effect of conjugal visitation on inmate sexual offend-
ing. A consequential negative effect is expected for the dummy coded conjugal
visitation variable to validate the thesis that the use of conjugal visitation contributes
to a reduction in inmate-on-inmate sexual offending.
Sexual violence rate 225.95 56.9
Per 100,000
Fig. 1 A comparison of mean sexual violence rates for states with and without conjugal visitation
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Model 1 of Table 2shows the effects of only the control variables on inmate sexual
offending. The two-way random-effects equations depicted in Table 2were estimated
using LIMDEP (Greene, 2007). Random-effects rather than fixed-effects equations
were estimated because each states use of conjugal visitation did not vary during the
three-year study period. A random-effects model is recommended when time-
invariant variables are included in the equation (Greene, 2007). The results displayed
in Model 1 reveal that only the prison population variable reaches statistical signif-
icance. As prison population increases, prison sexual violence increase appreciably.
This finding is to be expected since the more inmates confined in prison the more
likely there is to be sexual offending. The R
for this model is .414.
We now turn to the effect of conjugal visitation on inmate sexual offending. Model
2 in Table 2reveals that the coefficient for the conjugal visitation variable is negative
and sizable, which indicates that inmate-on-inmate sexual offending is much less
pronounced in states that allow conjugal visitation. The effects of the control varia-
bles are compatible with those reported in Model 1. Except for prison population, all
the control variables fail to reach statistical significance. Comparing the fit between
Model 2 and the baseline model (Model 1), the newly added conjugal visitation
variable increases our ability to explain variation in inmate sexual offending. The R
for this model is .490.
Table 2 Two-way random-effects models estimating the impact of conjugal visitation on inmate-on-
inmate sex offenses
Model 1 Model 2
Controls only With conjugal visitation
Coefficient Std. error Coefficient Std. error
Conjugal visitation ––83.171** 29.793
Prison population .002*** .000 .002*** .000
Daily cost .138 .174 .101 .173
Inmate-officer ratio .392 .235 .401 .236
Percent officer turnover .066 .251 .090 .252
Officer assaults .002 .007 .003 .007
Percent black .339 .194 .372 .192
Percent under 25 .122 .164 .129 .165
Percent maximum .323 .244 .322 .245
Constant 4.209 20.599 5.597 20.247
.414 .490
*p< .05; **p< .01; ***p<.001 (two-tailed tests)
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 (b059.47, p<.01) and in the abusive sexual contacts
equation (b023.81, p<.05).
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Despite an appreciable amount of research, firm conclusions regarding the underlying
causal factors responsible for the occurrence of rape and other sexual offenses in our
society remain elusive. Two general theories have been proffered to explain sexual
offending: feminist theory and sexual gratification theory. Feminist theory suggests
that sexual violence results primarily from an offenders desire to exert power and
control over another individual, whereas sexual gratification theory argues that sexual
gratification rather than control and domination is the primary goal of an offender in
initiating sexual violence. Previous research has been unable to adjudicate between
these two alternative hypotheses. Some studies find support for feminist theory, while
others reinforce the claims proffered by sexual gratification theory.
The objective of the this research study was to briefly delineate the two competing
perspectives that guide the majority of research pertaining to sexual offending and to
adduce empirical evidence in support of either perspective using longitudinal data on
sexual violence occurring in prison for the 50 U.S. states. By examining the influence
of conjugal visitation on same sex sexual violence, this study took a different path
than that taken in previous research. We believe that an alternative path is imperative
to help shed additional light on the conflicting findings reported in the literature.
Feminist theory maintains that conjugal visitation will have little if any substantive
effect on sexual offending in prison. On the other hand, sexual gratification theory
suggests that conjugal visitation should reduce sexual offending in prison. This
discrepancy afforded us the ability to test the validity of each perspective.
The results generated in the pooled time-series analysis show that states with
conjugal visitation have a lower level of sexual offending in prison than states that
do not allow conjugal visitation. Such a finding, which casts doubt on the feminist
theory and furnishes support for sexual gratification theory, is given added credence
by the fact that the effect of conjugal visitation was substantive despite the inclusion
of several control variables in the equation. In addition to a strong negative relation-
ship between conjugal visitation and sexual offending, our results show that
only one control variable, prison population, is important in explaining sexual
violence in prison.
The observed negative effect of conjugal visitation on sexual offending
suggests that more states should consider allowing conjugal visitation as a
means to attenuate sexual violence in prison. While the present research
focused solely on the effect of conjugal visitation on a single outcome - sexual
offending, it is important to note that conjugal visitation has other positive
effects on inmateswell-being. Hoffmann, Dickinson and Dunn (2007) point out
that conjugal visitation helps to improve the functioning of a marriage by maintaining
an inmates role as husband or wife, improve the inmates behavior while incarcer-
ated, counter the effects of prisonization, and improve post-release success by
enhancing the inmates ability to maintain ties with his or her family. Additionally,
because conjugal visitation is reported to reduce homosexual activity and because
AIDS is often spread by homosexual activity, conjugal visitation may help to
attenuate the spread of AIDS in prison (Bates, 1989; Olivero et al., 1992). Future
research might also wish to consider the effects of conjugal visitation on other aspects
of an inmates life.
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Our findings also have other policy implications. First, treatment programs con-
ducted in prison should be geared to view sexual offending as a sex crime instead of
solely as a crime of power. Such programs may help to attenuate recidivism. Second,
because our results suggest that rape and sexual offending are likely to be sexually
motivated, the use of chemical castration may be an effective strategy in reducing
rape and other types of sexual offending. Research suggests that anti-androgenic
agents such as Depo Provera are effective in reducing recidivism among sex
offenders (Grubin, 2008; Maletzky et al., 2006). These types of drugs act to lower
testosterone levels by manipulating a persons body chemistry (Greenfield, 2006).
The use of chemical castration to decrease sexual offending is not without critics.
Opponents of chemical castration point to potential violations of human rights
(Harrison & Rainey, 2009), problems ensuring the individuals compliance with
taking the drug and the potential negative effects associated with the drug (Conroy,
2006). While possible human rights violations and the potential for adverse side
effects resulting from the drug are issues that certainly need more research and
discussion, compliance with taking the drug in a prison setting is likely to be
enhanced because the drug, which is given by injection, cannot be surreptitiously
hidden or altered in some way by an inmate.
The current study has a few limitations that should be addressed in future work.
First, the study was based on instances of sexual offending reported to prison officials.
There is little doubt that sexual offending generally and sexual offending that tran-
spires in prison is underreported. Nevertheless, there is little tangible evidence avail-
able to indicate that the frequency of sexual offending varies depending on whether a
state allows or does not allow conjugal visitation. It also seems likely that the use of
official data, combined with detailed interviews of inmates that focus on their sexual
offending in prison, will go a long way in strengthening our understanding of inmate-
on-inmate sexual violence. The evidence presented here also can only be viewed as
being suggestive. The aggregate nature of the data impedes our ability to determine
whether sexual offenders did or did not have meaningful partners for conjugal visits.
Future research might wish to consider using micro-level data to compare the sexual
offending rates of offenders permitted conjugal visits with similarly situated inmates
not afforded this opportunity. However, such data would be difficult to obtain.
It is also important to recognize that the crux of the distinction between feminist
theory and sexual gratification theory is one of motivation. What is necessary to
contribute to the literature is research that can provide insight into an offenders
motivation. One way to get at motivation is by using in-depth interviews of inmates
involved in sexual offending to elicit the psychological and interpersonal factors
responsible for their behavior. These types of studies will undoubtedly enhance our
understanding of the micro-level processes underlying the observed aggregate rela-
tionship between conjugal visitation and sexual offending.
In sum, our findings propel the idea that sexual violence can be attenuated given
appropriate policy initiatives. While we are the first to acknowledge that the causes of
sexual violence are not likely to be singular, our research suggests some potential
solutions that should be considered. The harm caused by rape and other forms of
sexual violence reverberate through lives, homes, and communities. Additional
policy initiatives directed at extinguishing sexual violence, which appears to be
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Stewart J. DAlessio is a Professor of Criminal Justice at Florida International University in Miami. He
received his Ph.D. in Criminology from Florida State University. His current research focuses on the
National Incident-Based Reporting System. His publications appear in a variety of scholarly journals,
including the American Sociological Review,Social Forces,Criminology,Social Problems, and Justice
Jamie L. Flexon is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at Florida International
University. She received her Ph.D. in 2006 from the School of Criminal Justice, University at Albany. Her
primary interests involve the administration of capital punishment, the assessment of criminal justice policy
generally, and issues related to race, ethnicity and justice. Her work has appeared in various outlets
including International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology,Crime & Delinquen-
cy,Journal of Criminal Justice,Western Criminology Review,Justice Policy Journal,Victims & Offenders,
among others.
Lisa Stolzenberg is Professor and Chair of the Department of Criminal Justice at Florida International
University. She earned her Ph.D. in criminology from Florida State University. Her research examines the
effect of disparity and discrimination in criminal justice decision making and the impact of new laws and
policy initiatives aimed at regulating behavior, especially criminal behavior. Her research appears in a
variety of academic journals in criminology, criminal justice, and sociology.
Am J Crim Just
... *papers in journals:BenneƩ, 1989, Carcedo et al, 2015 Carlson & Cervera, 1991 3 a&b 3 ;Comfort, 2002;D'Alessio et al, 2013;Davis, 1988;Einat & Rabinovitz, 2012;Hensley et al, 2000a 1 ; Hensley et al, 2000b 1 ; Hensley et al, 2002a 1 ; Hensley et al, 2002b 1 ; Hopper, 1965 2 , 1989 2 ; Howser et al, 1984; Silveira et al, 2015; Toepell & Greaves, 2001. Padovani, N. C. (2011) In the eye of the hurricane: Homosexual conjugality and the conjugal visit right in the Female Prison of São Paulo Capital." ...
Background Imprisonment impacts on lives beyond the prisoner's. In particular, family and intimate relationships are affected. Only some countries permit private conjugal visits in prison between a prisoner and community living partner. Aims Our aim was to find evidence from published international literature on the safety, benefits or harms of such visits. Methods A systematic literature review was conducted using broad search terms, including words like ‘private’ and ‘family’, to maximise search sensitivity but strict criteria for inclusion – of visits unobserved by prison staff and away from other prisoners. All included papers were quality assessed. Two of us independently extracted data from included papers, according to a prepared checklist. Meta-analysis was considered. Results Seventeen papers were identified from 12 independent studies, all but three of them from North America. The only study of health benefits found a positive association with maintaining sexual relationships. The three before-and-after study of partnership qualities suggested benefit, but conjugal visiting was within a wider family-support programme. Studies with in-prison behaviour as a possible outcome suggest small, if any, association, although one US-wide study found significantly fewer in-prison sexual assaults in states allowing conjugal visiting than those not. Other studies were of prisoner, staff or partner attitudes. There is little evidence of adverse effects, although two qualitative studies raise concerns about the visiting partner's sense of institutionalisation or coercion. Conclusions The balance of evidence about conjugal visiting is positive, but there is little of it. As stable family relationships have, elsewhere, been associated with desistance from crime, the contribution of conjugal visiting to these should be better researched.
... Contact between inmates and family members can occur through in-person visits, mail, and telephone calls. These traditional methods of communication have been found to be largely associated with a range of positive outcomes including less inmate misconduct (Cochran, 2012;Pierce et al., 2018), lower risk of recidivism (Duwe & Clark, 2013), successful postrelease employment, lower levels of substance use , improved mental health during the transition into the community (Folk et al., 2019), and in the case of conjugal visits, lower risk of in-prison sexual offending (Dalessio et al., 2013). A summary of research found that child contact while in prison had a positive effect on incarcerated individuals, especially within settings that included supportive interventions (Poehlmann et al., 2010). ...
Purpose Paternal incarceration poses significant concerns for fathers and their children. Despite the known negative consequences, little is understood about father involvement after prison. This study aims to further understanding of fatherhood following incarceration to inform future intervention strategies. Method Using data from the Urban Institute’s Returning Home: Understanding the Challenges of Prisoner Reentry Study ( N = 326), we conduct bivariate and multivariate analyses to examine three dimensions of father involvement and predictors of involvement at two time points after prison. Results Findings reveal generally high levels of father involvement in the first year following incarceration. Father-child contact during prison and increased work hours after prison showed positive effects on early father involvement, while post-prison engagement and contact following release were associated with later involvement. Conclusions Promoting father-child contact and positive relationships during incarceration may be important for future father involvement after release. Potential social work and criminal justice practice and research opportunities are discussed.
... Em particular, destacam-se três abordagens que, não sendo mutuamente exclusivas, se podem conjugar entre si. A primeira surgiu nos debates iniciais sobre o tema e defende que as visitas íntimas, atendendo às necessidades sexuais dos reclusos, têm o potencial de reduzir alguns dos problemas que afetam as prisões, como a tensão, a hostilidade e a violência entre os detidos, presumivelmente derivadas da longa acumulação de energia sexual frustrada (D'Alessio, Flexon, & Stolzenberg, 2012;Goetting, 1982;Hensley, 2002). A segunda perspectiva argumenta que o acesso a visitas íntimas, possibilitando os contatos entre casais heterossexuais, pode reduzir a formação de relações entre pessoas do mesmo sexo (Miotto, 1984;Padovani, 2011). ...
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O presente artigo propõe analisar os desafios que as mulheres aprisionadas enfrentam para manutenção do contato familiar, afetivo e sexual. Esta reflexão baseia-se numa análise comparativa entre Brasil e Portugal. Em ambos os países, há primazia da vigilância, que se traduz em reduzidas possibilidades de contatos, na carência de privacidade durante as visitas e nas limitações ou proibições aos contatos telefónicos. Não obstante as diferenças entre os contextos, é claro que a manutenção de laços durante o aprisionamento se evidencia como um desafio nos dois países, sugerindo a necessidade de mudanças para que os direitos dos/as reclusos/as possam ser garantidos.
Using paper surveys, we investigated sexual behaviors and desires of 181 inmates in a Finnish prison. Conjugal visits, sexual desire, and gender were the strongest predictors of sexual activity. Reports of coercive experiences were somewhat less prevalent than reported in international studies. Compared with population-based data, inmates reported fewer partnered behaviors, although their desires for these activities were similar. The masturbation frequency did not differ between the two populations; men generally masturbated more than they desired. Male prisoners who reported more masturbation also reported lower well-being. These results can be used to guide prisoners and staff on topics relevant to prisoner sexuality.
Although a reasonably large body of knowledge is now available to describe prison violence, much less is known about the effectiveness of violence prevention interventions. In this scoping review, ten different research databases were searched to identify recent evaluation studies that adopted an experimental or quasi-experimental design. A total of 18 separate evaluation studies met the study inclusion criteria which were then categorised in relation to whether they aimed to address individual, situational, or social drivers of violence. The strength and utility of the evidence base in terms of selecting and implementing new prevention initiatives in prison settings is considered.
Objectives This study tests the relative timing of inmate infractions in the weeks before and after a visit. Method Our sample is a cohort of 823 male inmates who participated in the Dutch Prison Visitation Study (DPVS) (2017) and had visitation and misconduct data. Using two-level random effects logistic regression models, we examined week-to-week associations between infractions and prison visits, including visits from partners, family, friends, and official visitors. Results The probability of an infraction is comparable to average levels in anticipation of visits, increases up to 18 percent in the weeks immediately following visits, and then returns to baseline levels. This pattern is found for contraband infractions, but no effects were found for aggressive infractions. Strongest effects were found for family and official visits. When inmates are visited frequently, the risk of infractions postvisit is similar to average levels. Conclusions The findings show that visits can have harmful effects on inmate infractions. These effects seem to stem from increases in contraband infractions. More research is needed to further understand the mechanism behind visits’ effects.
This study examines the attitudes of 15 male ex-inmates toward heterosexual romantic relationships during imprisonment as viewed retrospectively. The interviewees expressed ambivalence regarding these intimate partnerships, which were a source of difficulty in prison and upon reentry into society. We conclude that prison services could better help inmates to improve these relationships, thus reducing the pains of imprisonment and enhancing their successful social reintegration.
Violence is an ongoing concern for many people who live and work in correctional settings and yet relatively little is known about the effects of institutional violence prevention efforts. This paper reports the findings of a scoping review of recent research relevant to understanding the influence of one factor, contact with family, that potentially influences institutional violence in countries such as Aotearoa New Zealand where Indigenous peoples are over-represented in prison settings. A total of 15 different studies were identified that provided consistent evidence of an association between family contact and prison violence. The implications of this work for the development of evidence-based prison violence prevention strategies are discussed.
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Female Incarceration: Implications of the intimate visits on prison adaptation. This study aims to understand female prisoners’ adaptation to the imprisonment and to analyze their attitudes and perceptions about the influence of intimate visits in this process. To this end, we conducted interviews with forty female inmates (twenty registered and twenty not registered in the Intimate Visit Scheme). Through content analysis of the interviews conducted, we conclude that most of the women went through a psychologically troubled period, and their biggest prison pain was the removal from family and children. As a result, these women perceive intimate visits as a meaningful and beneficial program as it reduces prison pains. Keywords: Female incarceration, intimate visits, prison adaptation, attitudes, perceptions.
Emphasizing the power and fundamental nature—comparable to the basic mammalian drive for food—of sex drives and urges in almost everybody, including paraphilics and sex offenders, this article gives an overview of biologically-based, or “organic” approaches to the treatment of paraphilics and sex offenders. Organic treatment approaches for this population may be divided into surgical and pharmacotherapeutic categories. Surgical approaches include castration (orchiectomy), sterotactic (brain) surgery and estrogen implants, the latter two approaches are not used in the United States (U.S.). All surgical approaches act hormonally, in reducing or blocking the amount of circulating androgens in the subject. Pharmacotherapeutic approaches include: (1) Indirect-acting and direct-acting antiandrogen hormones, also intended to reduce or block the amount of circulating androgens in the subject. (2) Psychotropic medications for primary treatment of male aggressive hypersexuality, for treatment of co-occurring psychiatric symptomatology, or for both. (3) An experimental pharmacologic approach to the treatment of this population consists of the use of antiepileptic drugs, or “AED's” to stabilize the impulsivity/compulsivity of these subjects, in reducing the hypothesized “kindling” that may occur during impulsive/compulsive periods in these individuals. Whatever organic approach may be used for paraphilics and sex offenders, such an approach alone is not sufficient treatment for this population. Psychotherapeutic and cognitive/behavioral approaches must also be included in these individuals' treatment regimens. A companion piece to this article, giving an overview of psychotherapeutic and cognitive/behavioral treatment approaches to this population will be published in a future issue of this Journal.
The great majority of convicted sexual offenders will eventually be managed in the community. To date, many jurisdictions have attempted to apply a one-size-fits-all model using a specific treatment program, medication, or a containment approach. These programs have a number of drawbacks and are not well supported by research literature. An alternate way of approaching risk management of sexual offenders that has greater empirical support is proposed. This model relies upon a concentration of attention on the highest risk offenders, individualizing intervention strategies based on identified risk factors, and assessing for psychopathy as part of the planning process.
This article describes the "rape myth" and tests hypotheses derived from social psychological and feminist theory that acceptance of rape myths can be predicted from attitudes such as sex role stereotyping, adversarial sexual beliefs, sexual conservatism, and acceptance of interpersonal violence. Personality characteristics, background characteristics, and personal exposure to rape, rape victims, and rapists are other factors used in predictions. Results from regression analysis of interview data indicate that the higher the sex role stereotyping, adversarial sexual beliefs, and acceptance of interpersonal violence, the greater a respondent's acceptance of rape myths. In addition, younger and better educated people reveal less stereotypic, adversarial, and proviolence attitudes and less rape myth acceptance. Discussion focuses on the implications of these results for understanding and changing this cultural orientation toward sexual assault.
Grounded in social learning theory, this study investigated sex differences in and correlates of premarital sexual aggression using two operational definitions of sexual aggression. Analyses of survey responses from 380 single males and 241 females revealed convergent validity for the two measures and consistency in findings across tests of the three hypotheses. Sexual aggression was more common in men's than in women's dating relationships. Multivariate analyses revealed significant positive associations between premarital sexual aggression and past acts of sexual aggression for women only, between premarital sexual aggression and accepting rape myths for men only, and between premarital sexual aggression and relationship conflict for both men and women.
The Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (P.L. 108-79) requires the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) to carry out, for each calendar year, a comprehensive statistical review and analysis of the incidence and effects of prison rape. This report fulfills the requirement under Sec. 4(c)(2)(B)(ii) of the Act to provide a listing of State and Federal prisons ranked according to the incidence of prison rape. Between April and August 2007, BJS completed the first National Inmate Survey (NIS) of 146 State and Federal prisons. The survey, conducted by RTI International (Research Triangle Park, NC), was restricted to adult con-finement facilities, including prisons, penitentiaries, prison hospitals, prison farms, boot camps, and centers for recep-tion, classification, or alcohol and drug treatment. The NIS excluded community-based facilities, such as halfway houses, group homes, and work release centers. The sam-ple was designed in accordance with the requirement that BJS draw a random sample, or other scientifically appropri-ate sample, of not less than 10% of prison facilities. (See Methodology for sample description.) Unlike previous BJS surveys of sexual violence that were based on administrative records, the NIS collected reports of sexual violence directly from inmates. The NIS survey consisted of an Audio Computer-Assisted Self Interview (ACASI) in which inmates, using a touch-screen, interacted with a computer-assisted questionnaire and followed audio instructions delivered via headphones. A small number of inmates (2% of all participants in the survey) completed a short paper form. These were inmates housed primarily in administrative or disciplinary segregation or considered too violent to be interviewed.