Bill Would OK Condoms in Prisons
Bill Would OK Condoms in PrisonsSacramento Bee (02.26.05): Jim Sanders
California Assembly member Paul Koretz (D-West Hollywood) has proposed legislation to allow the distribution of condoms to the state’s 162,000 male and female inmates. Under AB 1677, the state would not sanction prison sex — which is currently banned — but would allow nonprofit groups to distribute condoms, dental dams or other sex-related protective devices. The Department of Corrections would be required to devise a plan for disposing of used devices that “protects the anonymity of inmates and the health of corrections officers.”
According to Koretz, prison sex happens despite the ban against it, and an inordinately high number of inmates enter the prison system with HIV or other STDs.
Two California counties, Los Angeles and San Francisco, have for years allowed jail inmates access to condoms. “We’re not promoting sex; we’re promoting health,” said Deputy Randy Bell of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which permits only homosexual inmates — who are housed in a separate unit — to receive condoms distributed by a local nonprofit.
Critics contend passage of AB 1677 would send the wrong message that prison sex is permissible, while others worry that inmates would fill condoms with urine or feces to attack guards. “If you really want to stop an activity, you don’t make it easier for people to do it,” said Sen. Dick Ackerman (R-Irvine).
Assembly member Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), who chairs the Assembly Public Safety Committee, said he will take no position on AB 1677 pending public hearings but added the proposed bill could benefit communities, and not just prisons, by reducing the risk that inmates will contract STDs while in custody and spread them once they are released.
State DOC spokesperson Terry Thornton said her department does not take positions on pending legislation; however, she said prison officials have concerns ranging from health risks posed by used condoms to the potential they could be used to transfer drugs.
S. Alex Williams
( (646) 420-1979