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Chapter 4 examines the origins of conjugal visits in Mississippi and their increasing acceptance by professional penologists. The practice began when officials believed that Black prisoners would work harder if they were sexually satisfied, but it came to be seen as a progressive measure. By the 1950s and 1960s, developments in social sciences, as well as episodes of prison unrest and anxieties about homosexuality in prisons, inspired experimentation with conjugal visits. Mississippi became the unlikely model of progressive penology, as conjugal visits were hailed by strange bedfellows as a means of sustaining normative behavior and restoring patriarchy and a sense of manly responsibility, as an incentive for generating more productivity among prisoners, and as a safety valve to prevent violence and unrest. Rather than promoting permissiveness, conjugal visits could shore up discipline, heteronormativity, and compliance; as such, they demonstrated the multivalent nature of prison reform.

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