Bay Area Reporter (San Francisco) (01.16.2014)
The Bay Area Reporter stated that the California State Legislature was considering Assembly Bill 966 (AB 966), which would require the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to develop a five-year plan for condom distribution in all California state prisons. The bill aimed to reduce the incidence of HIV and STD infections in California prisons. Authored by Assembly Member Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), the bill specified no timeline for distribution and recommended that CDCR seek guidance from the successful pilot project implemented in 2008 by California State Prison, Solano. Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a similar Bonta-authored bill (AB 999) last year, noting that state regulations already allowed family members to bring condoms for overnight family visits.
Bonta emphasized that the cost to implement the Solano pilot project was approximately $1.39 per person, and the project paid for itself if the program prevented 2.7 to 5.5 infections per year. The California Department of Health Services estimated the average cost per HIV patient in the Med-Cal System was $23,964 per year, according to Bonta.
Neither Brown Spokesperson Jim Evans nor CDCR Spokesperson Terry Thornton would comment on AB 966. However, Thornton stated that having sex in prison was illegal in California, and the practice of ingesting drug-filled condoms to transport drugs posed a serious health threat to prisoners.
AB 966 supporter Assembly Member Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) stated opposition to the bill represented “institutionalized homophobia” and ignored what actually happened in prisons. Ammiano also cited successful condom distribution programs in San Francisco jails. San Francisco Sheriff’s Department Spokesperson Susan Fahey reported “no known incidents” of prisoners using condoms to bring in contraband. Supporters expected the bill to reach the Assembly floor after clearing the Assembly Appropriations Committee. AIDS Healthcare Foundation sponsored the bill.