SACRAMENTO--Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday vetoed a bill a that would have expanded the availability of condoms in state prisons.
The measure, by Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), would have required the state corrections department to develop a five-year plan to make condoms available in every California prison.
Supporters of the measure argued that distributing condoms would help reduce the spread of sexually transmitted diseases among inmates, who have higher rates of HIV/AIDS infection.
"It's not uncontroversial, but from a public health perspective and policy perspective, I thought it made a lot of sense," Bonta said in an interview.
Bonta said he crafted his bill, AB 999, based on the findings of a pilot project at Solano State Prison several years ago. Researchers found that inmates used the condoms that were made available to them, and there was no increase in safety problems for prisoners and staff.
Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said in a statement the measure was "a fairly prudent health measure intended to protect inmates as well as their post-incarceration partners—often, wives and girlfriends — from possible transmission of HIV and other STDs."
"Brown now joins dubious company with former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who vetoed two prior similar condoms in prisons bills during his tenure,” Weinstein added.
Brown, in his veto message, noted that family visitors are already allowed to bring condoms for purposes of overnight visits. He said if the corrections department decides it should expand its visitation program, it should do so within its existing authority.
Bonta responded that his bill was intended to address sex between inmates, not family visits.
"With enormous respect to the governor, that's not the issue," said Bonta in an interview. "Sex in prisons is happening. It's illegal, technically, but it is happening. The issue of family visits is just not the issue."