Court upholds California ban on some conjugal visits

The Associated Press
Saturday December 30, 2000

SAN FRANCISCO – California’s ban barring certain inmates from conjugal visits will stick, a federal appeals court ruled Friday. 

Based on security concerns, a 1995 law excluded conjugal visits from prisoners convicted of sex crimes, crimes carrying life sentences or violent crimes against family members or minors. 

A group of inmates and their loved ones challenged that rule, which does not affect other prisoners. They claimed it was an added penalty, which violates the U.S. Constitution’s ban on imposing new punishment for crimes already committed. 

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed with the appeal.  

In 1998, a different three-judge panel of the same circuit ruled that changes in conjugal visitation eligibility did not violate the 8th Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. 

For three decades, inmates with good prison records have been granted almost unsupervised overnight visits with loved ones in prison cottages. Prisoner rights groups say conjugal visits foster good prison behavior.