Conjugal Visit Valuable for Inmates, Should Mimic Normal Environment: Warden

By Omand, Geordon | The Canadian Press, February 1, 2017 | Go to article overview

Conjugal Visit Valuable for Inmates, Should Mimic Normal Environment: Warden


Omand, Geordon, The Canadian Press


Conjugal visits valuable for inmates: warden

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MISSION, B.C. - It looks like a normal three-bedroom family home. A ceiling fan whirrs over a pair of sofas in the living room. The hallway shelves carry a pile of bed sheets. A refrigerator hums quietly in the kitchen as sunlight peaks in through a curtained window.

But on closer inspection, several oddities catch the eye. The corded phone hanging on the wall is missing a dial pad. The television stand is packed with old VHS films. And on the hallway cork board there's a laminated message on yellow paper outlining the four times a day the home's inhabitants are expected to present themselves and be counted.

The house is one of two used at the Mission Minimum Security Institution in British Columbia's Fraser Valley for private family visits.

The conjugal visit program allows eligible inmates to apply every two months to spend up to three days with either family, a significant other or a close personal acquaintance. It is in place at minimum- and medium-security facilities across the country and allows participants to meet in homes that are slightly removed from the rest of the prison.

Barb van Vugt, the warden at Mission Institution, describes the visits as an important part of the prisoner rehabilitation process, one that aims to give an inmate the best chance at successfully reintegrating back into society.

"We need to be mindful that the vast majority of our offenders return to our communities," van Vugt said during an interview at the institution.

"Part of that program is continued contact with family and maintaining relationships with people in the community who most likely are going to be supporting them once they're released."

Van Vugt points to historic research conducted by Correctional Service Canada that has uncovered a strong correlation between private family visits and a drop in recidivism. The study's results found that inmates who received just two private family visits -- the average number for those who took part in the program -- had a 22-per-cent lower likelihood of returning to jail than those who did not participate.

The mother-child program, which allows children under five years old to live full time with their incarcerated mothers, also uses family relationships to encourage rehabilitation. …

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