No one has data on exactly how many babies have been conceived during prisoner conjugal visits, then raised in foster care, but I assume the number is well into the thousands. I’ve met many and have foster-parented one or two myself. So, when I read that Mississippi is ending their conjugal visit program, I was glad. Christopher B. Epps, the prison commissioner, cited budgetary reasons and “the number of babies being born possibly as a result” as his reasoning to end the program.
I consider myself a crunchy liberal and I go out of my way to support my foster children’s parents. But when I learned that my foster child was conceived during a conjugal prison visit, my mind was blown. What? Where? How is that allowed? Perhaps my judgment is clouded by my emotional connection to my foster kids, but the experience made me question the rehabilitation policies of prisoners. It’s one thing to encourage prisoner connections with family members to reduce recidivism, it’s a whole other ball game to create a family for the same reason.
When I had to allow my foster baby to be put into a car with strangers, for a 10-hour day (with six hours of driving) so that she can be taken to visit her mother and father in prison, I was angry, heart-broken and seriously weirded-out. Do they know how to mix her formula? Her nap schedule? I was told she screamed the entire 10 hours, each time. My only choice was to block it out of my mind, I had no control over the situation (I was allowed to accompany her only once).
Definitely read the New York Times article (here the link again) — it’s fascinating. Families on the outside can be consumed with the culture of prison visits and the connections and visits to multiple prisoners. The remaining states with conjugal visits include California, New York, New Mexico and Washington.
I’m still waiting on a documentary.
Also from Rebecca this month: