New Mexico will end conjugal visits between inmates and their spouses next month, leaving the once-widespread practice in place in only three U.S. states, reports Reuters. In addition to addressing concerns over pregnancies, the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, and smuggled contraband, eliminating the program will save the state about $120,000 per year, New Mexico Department of Corrections spokeswoman Alex Tomlin said.
He said the state’s research showed the overnight stays “had no impact on decreasing the rate of inmates returning to jail.” The debate over conjugal visits has pitted political conservatives who view the practice as inconsistent with the ethic of punishment against some prison officials who say the visits improve inmate behavior and maintain family bonds. Soon only California, Washington and New York state prisons will permit conjugal visits. Federal prisons do not allow them. Mississippi, the first U.S. state to sanction sex for prisoners, ended its century-old program of conjugal visits in February.