The former governor of a New South Wales prison has raised concerns about same-sex attracted inmates wanting to marry cellmates while in custody after the legalisation of same-sex marriage.
In an opinion piece for the Daily Telegraph, former Grafton Correctional Centre boss John Heffernan said the decision to allow same-sex couples to marry created a new challenge for correctional authorities, who he says recently fielded a request from a male prisoner who wanted to marry his cellmate.
“Most Australians voted to support marriage equality. And it hasn’t taken long for the inevitable question to be raised, namely, do those same rights and privileges extend to that section of the community who are imprisoned?” he asked.
“They have committed an offence and therefore during their term of imprisonment they have forfeited many of their rights and entitlements.
“For instance, the length of time an inmate is serving may result in them being denied the right to vote while imprisoned.”
The author argues inmates can marry their non-inmate partners under certain conditions, but couldn’t have sex with their spouses the way cellmates would be able to.
“I venture to say Corrective Services NSW would not yet have written a policy regarding the management and supervision of married couples of the same gender in prison,” he wrote.
“Sex between consenting inmates in our jails is not officially forbidden nor is it condoned.
“With the constant threat of HIV and hepatitis C ever present in our prisons, some years ago the department provided condom vending machines in order to stop the spread of the diseases. The ironic part about that is if an inmate is currently suspected of having sex with another prisoner he or she may be quietly moved to another part of the centre.
“A prescribed policy would be compelled to recognise that sex between a married inmate couple is bound to occur and therefore direct prison staff on how to best manage that situation, both from a moral and dutiful standpoint.
“That said, a significant number of officers would have a great deal of difficulty in accepting such a situation be it on religious grounds or their own individual moral views.”
A spokesperson for Corrective Services New South Wales told Out In Perth weddings behind bars would not be permitted in the state.
“CSNSW does not allow marriages between inmates, same-sex or otherwise,” the spokesperson said.
“Inmates can apply to marry non-inmates, but prison chaplains discourage it and the Commissioner in any case has indicated he would not approve it.”
The issue of same-sex-attracted inmates wanting to marry each other has been raised in international jurisdictions.
In 2015, the British government allowed two inmates convicted of violent crimes to marry each other.