Assembly Committee Approves Bill That Would Allow Groups To Distribute Condoms in Prisons
The Assembly Public Safety Committee on Tuesday voted 4-2 to approve a bill (AB 1677) that would allow not-for-profit or public health organizations to distribute condoms, dental dams or other sex-related protective devices to the state prison inmates, the AP/Contra Costa Times reports (Thompson, AP/Contra Costa Times, 4/20).
The bill, by Assembly member Paul Koretz (D-West Hollywood), also would require the Department of Corrections to develop a plan for the disposal of used devices that maintains the anonymity of inmates and addresses correctional officers' health concerns (California Healthline, 2/28).
Sex among prisoners is illegal in California, but several studies have shown that between 30% and 60% of male inmates have sexual relations with other male inmates, according to Koretz. "It's unrealistic to think we have the ability to completely eliminate sex in prison," he said.
Koretz added that the HIV prevalence among inmates is five times the prevalence among the general population and that California spends approximately $18 million annually treating HIV-positive inmates.
Benjamin Lopez of the Traditional Values Coalition said the bill would encourage sexual relations in prisons (AP/Contra Costa Times, 4/20).
Although preventing HIV transmission has been a "major goal of most governmental agencies for many years," prison and jail administrators have been "missing in action," San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey writes in a San Francisco Chronicle opinion piece. Hennessey writes that California should adopt the bill, noting that the government has a "legal obligation to protect the prisoners it incarcerates from harm and to prevent unhealthy conditions."
Hennessey concludes, "What a wasted opportunity if we send [inmates] back without the knowledge of how to protect themselves and their loved ones from this deadly affliction. Or worse, that our inaction contributes to their infection while in our custody and then adds to the deadly toll on our country" (Hennessey, San Francisco Chronicle, 4/19).