Bill Introduced To Permit Distribution of Condoms, Other Protective Sex Devices To Prison Inmates
Assembly member Paul Koretz (D-West Hollywood) has introduced a bill (AB 1677) that would allow not-for-profit or public health organizations to distribute condoms, oral dams or "other sex-related protective devices" to California's 162,000 prison inmates, the Sacramento Bee reports. The bill would require the Department of Corrections to develop a plan for the disposal of used devices that "protects the anonymity of inmates and protects the health of correctional officers."
According to the Bee, the bill has "touched off a verbal firestorm" in part because the bill would provide inmates with condoms and other devices for "sex acts they can't legally commit."
Senate Minority Leader Dick Ackerman (R-Tustin) said, "If you really want to stop an activity, you don't make it easier for people to do it."
Benjamin Lopez of the Traditional Values Coalition said the bill was "obscene, disgusting and absurd," adding, "This is the same mentality we're telling teens: Don't have sex, but if you do, here's a condom." Lopez said, "It hasn't worked for teens. ... What makes Paul Koretz think its going to curb disease in prison?"
Lance Corcoran, a spokesperson for the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, said that condoms could be filled with human waste products and used to attack prison guards. He said, "Certainly, sex occurs in prisons. However, it's something we investigate fervently and try to prevent the best we can." He added, "Next we'll be providing syringes to inmates, I guess."
The state prison system has not taken a position on the bill, but prison officials have concerns about condoms being used to transport illicit drugs and the potential health risks of used condoms, according to spokesperson Terry Thornton.
Koretz said that inmates face increased health risks because many inmates enter the prison system with HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases and that the federal government estimates that about 30% of federal prison inmates engage in homosexual sex acts.
The Department of Corrections does not track the number of inmates caught or punished for engaging in homosexual acts.
Koretz said, "I don't disagree that if they could find a way to enforce the (prison sex ban), that would be better," adding, "But in the meantime, let's not turn a blind eye to this."
Philip Curtis of AIDS Project Los Angeles said, "We think [the bill] makes a lot of sense," adding, "It's good, practical public health. It's no big secret that there has been sex in prisons for as long as there have been prisons."
Assembly member Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) said that by reducing the spread of STDs among prison inmates, the bill also could reduce the risk of STD transmission in larger communities.
Koretz said that Vermont and Mississippi permit condom distribution in prisons, as do Canada and some countries in Western Europe and Latin America.
The Bee reports that Los Angeles and San Francisco counties have allowed county jail inmates to receive condoms for the past two years and that jail officials say the policy has had favorable results. Los Angeles County allows a local not-for-profit group to provide condoms to male inmates who have sex with men and are housed in a separate unit (Sanders, Sacramento Bee, 2/26).