The bonds of a family can be severely tested when a member is incarcerated. Many prisons offer a conjugal visit program to help preserve a family's connection and to act as motivation for the prisoner. The visits differ by country, but all provide a private place for families to gather for up to several days without supervision. There are rules both the prisoner and the visitor must follow to be awarded a conjugal visit.
One of the more common views of a conjugal visit's purpose is that it is only for sex between spouses. Intercourse can be part of a conjugal visit, but for most prisons, it is not the biggest reason for its existence. The actual makeup of conjugal visitation differs from country to country, but it generally allows for family members to visit with the prisoner in private, without any barriers between them, much like if they were at home. During these visits, spouses and children are allowed to visit, with the intent of helping the family deal with the stress of incarceration by allowing them to function almost as normal for a few hours or, in some countries, for as long as three days.
The family incentive of conjugal visits isn't the only benefit that prisons receive from these private sessions. The visits act as a reward for good behavior and are not seen as a right of the prisoner. In many cases, the prisoner must not have had any violations during a period of time before the visit. If that person has broken the rules, he or she can be denied spending private time with family members. Many prisons find this to be helpful in controlling the prisoner population.
Conjugal prison visits rarely happen within the walls of the actual prison, but none occur offsite, either. Most prisons offer a special place that allows the prisoner and his family to relax and have some privacy. Many prisons offer a cabin or trailer for visits, and some, such as prisons in France, offer an on-site apartment.
The prisoners must have a clean conduct record, but in most cases, the visitors also must pass several standards. The most common test is a background check, because most people with a questionable legal record will not be permitted inside the prison. In many countries, individuals must pass a sexually transmitted disease test before a conjugal visit, in order to prevent the outbreak of certain diseases inside the prison.