| SACRAMENTO, Calif.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. Jan 27 Condoms could
eventually be distributed to California prison inmates under a
bill passed in the Democratic-controlled state Assembly on
Monday, setting the stage for potential pushback from Governor
Jerry Brown, who vetoed a similar measure last fall.
The bill, which must still be passed by the state Senate,
directs California to develop a five-year plan to hand out
condoms in the state prison system, where existing law already
criminalizes sex acts between inmates, regardless of consent.
Opponents of the plan have predicted prisoners in the
overcrowded system could use condoms to store contraband rather
than for safe sex, while backers say it could help cut down on
high rates of sexually transmitted diseases among inmates.
"Sexually transmitted disease is a tragic reality of life in
prison," said Oakland Democratic Assemblyman Rob Bonta, who
introduced the bill.
Bonta said the rate of sexually transmitted diseases that
can be prevented by condom use was considerably higher in
prisons than in the general population. In particular, he said
the rate of infection with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is
as much as 10 times higher in prisons than among the public.
AIDS activist Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS
healthcare foundation and a bill sponsor, said giving condoms to
inmates could help reduce transmission rates and would help
protect spouses and partners of prisoners once they are
"People have a right to have protection who are in prisons
and jail and it's not being provided to them - regardless of
whether it's legal to have sex in prisons or jails," Weinstein
He pointed to a pilot program in Solano State Prison that he
said was successful in preventing the spread of disease.
The state's legislative analyst found that the cost of
treating an HIV-infected inmate is about $41,000 per year, and
said the program would pay for itself and save hundreds of
thousands of dollars if it prevented 10 cases per year.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation has offered to provide the
condoms as well as dispensers, Weinstein and Bonta said.
Brown, in an October veto message of last year's bill, said
responsibility for condom distribution in prisons belonged to
the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, not
"The department currently allows family visitors to bring
condoms for the purpose of the family overnight visitation
program," Brown wrote in his message. "While expansion of the
program may be warranted, the Department should evaluate and
implement this expansion carefully and within its existing
California prisons have been in the spotlight nationwide
over the past year over such issues as overcrowding and the
practice of keeping some inmates in near-isolation for years on
To make the measure more palatable to the governor this time
around, backers asked the state to develop a plan to distribute
condoms, but did not require the plan to be implemented.
Brown has not indicated whether he will sign the revised
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and