§ 4. Mr. Meacher
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to introduce conjugal visiting in prisons and other places of detention.
§ Mr. Meacher
In view of the desirability of preserving marital relationships for the purposes of rehabilitation, in view of the needs of prisoners' wives, in view of the need to reduce homosexuality in prison, and because of the dangers of increased personality breakdown arising from the trend towards longer sentences, will the Minister consider carefully a limited experimental introduction of conjugal visiting in prison, since this has already been tried successfully in several countries?
§ Mr. Carlisle
No, we shall not. I fully accept the importance of retaining family ties—that is why we have extended the opportunities for home visits towards the end of sentences and are also encouraging more visiting of prisoners and granting them more opportunity to correspond by letter—but the idea of conjugal visits is wholly unacceptable to many people. I believe that it would do nothing but cause embarrassment and, indeed, indignity to many of the wives concerned.
§ Mrs. Renée Short
Does the Minister of State recall that an all-party Select Committee made precisely this proposal to his predecessor in 1968? Is he aware that in all the countries where this has been operating for some time there has 1756 been a considerable reduction of tension within prison and, therefore, a much easier life for prison officers, who are able to do the job they are intended to do, which is not simply to keep prisoners under lock and key but to do rehabilitation work? Will the hon. and learned Gentleman consider the report again and see whether it is not possible to carry out an experiment on a limited scale?
§ Mr. Carlisle
Of course we are aware of the report to which the hon. Lady refers. We have given consideration to it and also to the views of the committee under Professor Radzinowicz, but we have come firmly to the view that the practical problem of producing a system of conjugal visits that could in any way be acceptable are overwhelming. It is a question of the selection of the prisoners concerned, the selection of the relationship to the women outside from whom they wish to receive a visit, and the selection of the places in which the visits could take place. We believe that the practical arguments against overwhelm the arguments that the hon. Lady has mentioned.