The Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog

How Prisoners Can Marry, Start Families While Serving Time

California allows its prisoners certain privileges that can allow them to love, marry, and start families, all while serving their time.

Here are the laws and policies that allow convicts to keep the fire alive in their marriages and grow their families:

Getting Married in Prison

The U.S. Supreme Court has opined, in the aptly named Loving case, that marriage is a most sacred and fundamental institution, and it cannot even be denied to convicts in state prison.

California is no slouch when it comes to providing constitutional rights -- unless you're feeling crowded, that is -- and prisoners under watch by California's Department of Correction and Rehabilitation are allowed to marry.

In order to get hitched while in the clink, a prisoner needs to request marriage plan documents from the prison, including a form for the fiance, which verifies that:

  • He or she is legally eligible to marry prisoner (not currently married or related), and
  • They're an opposite-sex couple (same-sex couples can't get married for now).

Note that prisoners serving life sentences or on death row are not allowed to have overnight visits.

Overnight/Conjugal Visits

Califonia is one of few states that will allow overnight or conjugal visits between a married spouse and an inmate, which they classify as "family visits."

Unlike marriage, consummating your relationship with your wife or husband is not considered a fundamental constitutional right for prisoners. In fact, it is considered a privilege that can be taken away.

The following groups of California prisoners are not eligible for overnight coupling with their spouse:

  • Death row inmates,
  • Prisoners with life sentences, and
  • Sex offenders.

Making Babies

Although Los Angeles jails have been providing condoms to prisoners for years, there is currently no law to provide condoms in state prisons.

The Supreme Court recognized that married couples have privacy rights which extend to contraception, but the Court has yet to confirm this right for prisoners.

On the other hand, nothing is preventing the prisoner's spouse from bringing condoms.

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