Overnight family visits were first introduced to California prisoners in 1974. Sometimes referred to as conjugal visits, they are available to prisoners’ spouses, children and other immediate family members. At San Quentin, visitors arrive around 8:00 in the morning and spend the next two nights in spartan yet homelike surroundings.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) provides overnight family visiting to help foster and maintain family ties. Without these intimate visits, a prisoner’s culture and familial bonds can be lost forever. But per CDCR regulations, family contact is not a right — it’s a privilege.
In 1996, Gov. Pete Wilson strippe this privilege from prisoners serving life sentences. After a 20-year hiatus, the program was reinstated under Gov. Jerry Brown in 2016, though CDCR policy still excludes certain prisoners, including those convicted of violent offenses against a minor or family member, domestic violence, or any sexual offense.