NPR explores the history of conjugal prison visits, also known as extended family visits. Mississippi is one of only six states where these visits are still permitted for lower-level offenders. Officials there say the privilege is too expensive to maintain and they will end them. Heather Thompson, a Temple University historian, says conjugal visits started in Mississippi in 1918. She says “there was a belief at the time that – on part of white Mississippians – that African-Americans had stronger sexual desires than whites and that having sex provided for them would make them work harder as an incentive.”
Thompson says studies have shown that conjugal visits are both incentives for good behavior and good for reducing violence in prisons. Other studies show that people who connected with their family tend to do much better, tend to recidivate less. NPR quotes Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps as saying that one reason to end conjugal visits was to reduce the possibility that more children would be conceived who would then have to be raised by single parents. He says even though contraception is provided, the state has no idea how many women are getting pregnant only for the child to be raised by one parent.