Sex in prison

The Amir case: should prisoners have the right to sex?

In a generally fine post on Yigal Amir, the assassin of Yitzhak Rabin, MJ Rosenberg writes:

Yigal Amir [….] has been treated with kid gloves by the Israeli judicial and prison system, which not only allowed him to marry while in jail but also allowed him to father a child. This week the assassin’s son was circumcised in prison so that the proud father could attend.

The comments thread brings out the detail that the birth was induced so that the brit could take place on the anniversary of the murder. The Israeli left is throwing up (see here and here).

Contrary to Rosenberg, it’s not an outlandish idea or a country-club privilege to grant cons opportunities for sex with their outside partners.

My Russian heroine Princess Maria Volkonskaya was allowed conjugal relations with her imprisoned husband in Siberia in the 1830s. (I think this was in the regular prison in Petropavlovsk not the mining camp in Chita where he started.)

According to Baroness Stern, speaking in a 2002 debate in the British House of Lords:

Private family visits – sometimes called conjugal visits—[…] are available to prisoners and their families in Sweden, Spain, Portugal, Russia, the Netherlands, Canada and some states of the United States.

On Canada, see more here. It’s not apparently the practice in Italy – but that didn’t stop one Camorra capo from fathering a child from his cell by artificial insemination. Most liberal is Mexico, or at least Mexico City, where conjugal visits are now arranged for gay couples.

Conjugal visits seem sound penal policy to me on practical grounds: they keep alive the family ties that are the prisoner’s best chance of rehabilitation, reduce the general level of misery and tension inside, and presumably lower the risk of prison rape and STDs. You can make a human rights case on the right to marry. It’s thinner for once than the utilitarian one, but does raise the question of principle: why not? Cons are delinquent citizens, not outcasts.

Are conjugal visits standard practice in Israel? Amir had to go to court to secure his, so it looks like not. I reckon he should have been allowed sex with his fiancé as a matter of routine – but not as special treatment.

Author: James Wimberley

James Wimberley (b. 1946, an Englishman raised in the Channel Islands. three adult children) is a former career international bureaucrat with the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. His main achievements there were the Lisbon Convention on recognition of qualifications and the Kosovo law on school education. He retired in 2006 to a little white house in Andalucia, His first wife Patricia Morris died in 2009 after a long illness. He remarried in 2011. to the former Brazilian TV actress Lu Mendonça. The cat overlords are now three. I suppose I've been invited to join real scholars on the list because my skills, acquired in a decade of technical assistance work in eastern Europe, include being able to ask faux-naïf questions like the exotic Persians and Chinese of eighteenth-century philosophical fiction. So I'm quite comfortable in the role of country-cousin blogger with a European perspective. The other specialised skill I learnt was making toasts with a moral in the course of drunken Caucasian banquets. I'm open to expenses-paid offers to retell Noah the great Armenian and Columbus, the orange, and university reform in Georgia. James Wimberley's occasional publications on the web