Former prison boss fears gay inmates will want to marry their cellmates

The former governor of Grafton gaol in New South Wales has written about his concern that same-sex attracted inmates will request permission to marry while in custody.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph John Heffernan says that the decision to allow same-sex couples to marry will create a new challenge for correctional authorities, who will now face requests from gay prisoners who want to marry their cell mates.

“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?” the former prison boss asks in his piece.

Heffernan says he’s not homophobic or filled with anti-gay sentiment, arguing that same-sex marriage has created problems for Corrective Services New South Wales.

The author gores on to argue that married couples within prison would expect to also have the right to have sex and this would create a challenge for some prison officers on religious and moral grounds.

“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.” Heffernan said.

The opinion piece has quickly drawn comments from those opposed to marriage equality who describe the situation as the “unintended consequences” and “slippery slope” that was highighted during the postal survey campaign.

The question of how to treat same sex inmates in relation to marriage has come up in overseas jurisdictions. In California when marriage equality was achieved there was no clear policy on what should occur within the prison system.

The British government however has allowed inmates to get married. Marc Goodwin and Mikhail Gallatinov were married in 2015, both men are serving life sentences for violent crimes.

OUTinPerth asked Corrective Services New South Wales what there official policy was, a spokesperson told us that there would definitely not be a rush of wedding bells behind bars.

“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.”
OUTinPerth has approached the WA Department of Corrective Services and asked that the local policy will be.
OIP Staff, image: Stock photo – Alcatraz Prison, San Francisco. 

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