Global Post (01.27.2014)
The Global Post reported that California’s Democratic-controlled Assembly passed a bill that directed the state to develop a five-year plan for condom distribution to inmates in the state prison system. The California Senate still would have to pass the bill, and Gov. Jerry Brown would have to sign it, for the bill to become law. At present, sex between inmates was illegal, “regardless of consent.” The bill’s opponents feared prisoners would use condoms to store contraband.
Assembly Member Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) countered that sexually transmitted infection (STI) incidence was much higher in prisons than among the general population. Bonta noted that HIV incidence was up to 10 times higher in prisons. AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) President Michael Weinstein added that giving condoms to inmates also would help to protect spouses and partners when inmates returned to the community. Weinstein cited a pilot condom distribution program in Solano State Prison that successfully reduced STI spread.
According to the state’s legislative analyst, if condom distribution prevented 10 new HIV cases per year, the program would pay for itself, since the annual cost of treating an HIV-positive inmate was approximately $41,000. AHF has offered to supply dispensers and condoms.
Brown vetoed a similar bill last year, stating that the correctional system, not the legislature, was responsible for condom distribution. Families could bring condoms for overnight visitation. Brown advised the correctional system to evaluate any program expansion and to remain within the system’s authority. The 2014 bill only called for the development of a plan, but did not require implementation.