In 2022, there are over four states in the United States of America that allow for conjugal visits within their prisons and New York is amongst those. The New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervisions (DOCCS) still encourages conjugal visits which are overseen by its Family Reunion Program (FRP).
There are plenty of reasons why DOCCS recommends conjugal visits to proceed which are largely due to building a positive influence among the inmate and they know what is going on in their family before their release.
However, in the United States of America, conjugal visits are a subject of massive controversy and the reason why slowly many states have closed their programs. In 1993, 17 states allowed conjugal visits, and the last one to close was New Mexico in 2016.
Overview of conjugal visits in the New York State:
The DOCCS Family Reunion Program under which conjugal visits are allowed believe that the conjugal visits serve their purpose as it allows them to spend private time with their spouse or domestic partner.
Family Reunion Program believes the following goals are served with the help of their conjugal program which includes:
- Ensuring that there is preservation and strengthening of the family ties of the inmate which got disrupted due to the result of incarceration.
- Conjugal programs have been found to foster positive and responsible conduct in the inmate.
- It has also been able to facilitate the post-release within the family and community, especially for those inmates who have been in prison for a very long time. It has also been found to reduce recidivism.
Criteria of prisons in New York State to allow conjugal visits to happen:
Before we understand what criteria the New York State has regarding conjugal visits, it is first important to understand what the US Supreme Court and Federal Courts have to say in the matter.
Both the US Supreme Court and Federal Courts have ruled out that conjugal visits are not a constitutional right but are rather a “privilege” for prisoners who have exhibited continued good behaviour during their time in prison.
Furthermore, both the US Supreme Court and Federal Courts have ruled out that conjugal visits need to be highly regulated and should only be extended to the blood relations of the inmate.
The conjugal visits are to happen within an enclosed cabin particularly present on the grounds of the prison, however, if the prisoner has exhibited extremely good behaviour then it can also happen in a public park. Prisoners who have been incarcerated for child abuse and domestic abuse are not allowed to have conjugal visits under any condition.
While keeping this in mind, DOCCS Family Reunion Program reflects what the highest courts of the US have ruled out. Therefore, the conjugal visits in the New York State prisons have the following eligibility criteria:
- Time: An inmate needs to have served at least six months of their prison sentence and only then they can file an appeal for a conjugation visit to proceed.
- Transfer: Since DOCCS Family Reunion Program allows conjugal visits can only happen in low-security prisons, therefore, if the prisoner has exhibited good behaviour or served his time at a high-security prison, the prisoner upon his transfer to a low-security prison can demand a conjugation visit after waiting for 30 days. If the request is not accepted within 90 days, then the inmate can re-apply.
- Good Behavior: DOCCS Family Reunion Program wants conjugal visits to serve as an opportunity for the inmates to display a pattern of good behaviour during their entire time in prison. Any reports of disciplinary issues can be used to reject the inmate’s application, therefore, it is a must for an inmate to make sure they do not indulge in any sort of fight or disciplinary issues.
This perhaps stands as one of the most important DOCCS Family Reunion Program eligibility criteria.
Family criteria for Conjugal Visits In New York State
- Spouse: DOCCS Family Reunion Program allows only those legal spouses whom the inmate has been married to for at least six months when they got arrested and have no criminal record. Spouses are also asked to possess valid documents during the time of their visit. It is to be noted that if DOCCS Family Reunion Program finds something to be wrong even when the family arrives at the conjugate cabin, they can still reject the visit.
- Children: while the DOCCS Family Reunion Program does allow children below the age of 18 but that happens in a very rare case. Children need to be 18 years of age or above. Minors need to be accompanied by an adult if their application is accepted, however, unaccompanied minor visits are also allowed after a special review and through the approval of the superintendent.
- Grandparents: The DOCCS Family Reunion Program allows grandparents to visit the inmate during conjugation.
- Foster parents & guardians: DOCCS Family Reunion Program also allows foster parents and guardians to visit provided there is proper verification of their claims.
- Nieces and Nephews: DOCCS Family Reunion Program does allow individual cases where special consideration can be made to allow an inmate to meet their nieces and nephews who are above the age of 18.
- Siblings: inmates are also allowed to meet their siblings.
- Stepchildren: with the help of a written statement from a non-custodial and a biological parent, the DOCCS Family Reunion Program allows an inmate to meet their stepchildren provided they are accompanied by their biological parents at the time of visit.
- Cousins and In-laws: lastly, DOCCS Family Reunion Program does not allow an inmate to meet their cousins and in-laws which may include the mother-in-law, brother-in-law, father-in-law, and sister-in-law. There is a special review that an inmate can ask for, however, in the majority of the cases that special review is rejected and often implies non-approval.
What to expect in a conjugal visit to New York?
DOCCS Family Reunion Program has very strict guidelines as to where conjugal visits can take place. The majority of the conjugal visits happen inside rooms, trailers, or cabins that are present within the fortification of 23 correctional facilities that allow for conjugal visits to take place.
There are two rooms in each facility and all of them are well furnished with board games and cards to make sure time can pass. In most cases, conjugal visits are no longer than 24 hours but exceptional cases are entertained increasing the time duration to about 48 hours.
Upon acceptance, DOCCS Family Reunion Program will provide a list of things family members can bring but it is to be noted they will undergo extreme scrutiny before you can enter the cabin or room. This is why people do not bring much stuff apart from food, basic clothes & itinerary, and sometimes a gaming machine just to pass time.
List of prisons in New York state that allows conjugal visits:
The following is the list of New York State prisons that allow conjugal visits:
- Adirondack Correctional Facility
- Albion Correctional Facility
- Attica Correctional Facility
- Auburn Correctional Facility
- Bedford Hills Correctional Facility
- Clinton Correctional Facility
- Collins Correctional Facility
- Eastern Correctional Facility
- Elmira Correctional Facility
- Fishkill Correctional Facility
- Great Meadow Correctional Facility
- Green Haven Correctional Facility
- Otisville Correctional Facility
- Shawangunk Correctional Facility
- Sing Sing Correctional Facility
- Sullivan Correctional Facility
- Taconic Correctional Facility
- Ulster Correctional Facility
- Wallkill Correctional Facility
- Washington NY Correctional Facility
- Wende Correctional Facility
- Woodbourne Correctional Facility
- Wyoming Correctional Facility
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