THE proposal to have conjugal visits within the nation's prisons system is not about allowing inmates to have sex with their spouse but to encourage family life.
This was the explanation given to the Express yesterday by Justice Minister Herbert Volney during a telephone interview.
"Why does everyone think that conjugal rights means sexual intercourse? Is that the narrow thinking of the population?" Volney asked.
The Justice Minister said: "We're talking about keeping family life alive what we want to do is to allow for a home type facility in the prison where a man can sit with his wife and chat with her, as to whether sexual relations will be allowed will be a matter for national dialogue."
Volney said at the end of the dialogue there will be a formal consultation before the matter is brought to Parliament and enacted in the prison rules.
He said consultation is expected to begin within the next two weeks as the matter has to be taken to Cabinet on Thursday first for approval.
Earlier yesterday Volney said he had a lengthy meeting with the Commissioner of Correctional Service Canada, Don Head, who he said, agreed through the Canadian High Commission, to assist the ministry in fine tuning the whole concept of conjugal visitations rights.
With respect to homosexual relationships Volney said there are no same sex union laws in the country at this time adding "we are speaking of conjugal visitations in connection with the existing laws of the land".
He added that the new prison rules will not be coming to Parliament in the "immediate future" adding if the impression was given that it will be taken to Parliament soon he was wrong to do so.
In a telephone interview, Commissioner of Prisons Martin Martinez said the proposal was a good idea in terms of rehabilitating the inmates and to encourage bonding with families but it should not take the "front burner".
He said some of the major issues will be accommodation and qualification of inmates to receive such perks.
Also speaking on the issue with the Express yesterday via telephone was head of the Prison Officers Association Rajkumar Ramroop who questioned what was happening behind the prison walls.
"What madness taking place in prison?" Ramroop asked.
Ramroop said only six states in the United States adopted the idea of conjugal visits. He said other issues such as proper infrastructure, reform programmes, drug programmes and programmes to deal with the high illiteracy rate are some of the things which should be looked at instead of proposed conjugal visits and radio programmes in the prison.
"It (conjugal visits) will not work...because of our culture. He (Volney) should rethink what he is doing and his advisers seems to be out of touch... Will same sex relationships be allowed?...Who will qualify for it, the minister should have thought out these things," Ramroop said.