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As prisoners and their allies mobilized to win concessions from both their keepers and the courts, conservatives fought back by framing prisoners’ gains as losses for decent citizens. By the 1990s the ruthless degradation of prisoners was advocated as a method of crime control. With the ascendancy of the penal harm movement of the 1990s—translating antiwelfare austerity into the context of the prison—elected officials, prosecutors, and journalists told “law-abiding citizens” that their tax dollars were going to fund “country clubs” for criminals. As conservatives consolidated their power in the 1990s and the ethos of austerity informed penal policies, conjugal visits became a target for a vengeful public. Despite opposition from prisoners, their families, and corrections professionals, longer sentences and fewer opportunities for release were followed by harsher prison conditions. As a war on crime became a war on prisoners, conjugal visits were eliminated.

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