California Considering Giving Condoms To Prisoners - Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

California Considering Giving Condoms To Prisoners

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. - Let me just get this out of the way first. It is illegal for prisoners in California to have sex with one another while they’re behind bars. But let’s face it, whether by mutual consent or by coercion or force, it happens.  Probably, a lot more than people care to know.  Some experts even have a term for it: institutional homosexuality.   Basically, people who might not otherwise engage in gay sexual behavior do so because they’re incarcerated. Whether you subscribe to that line of thought or not, the fact is, whatever the reasons or circumstances, sex among inmates happens. Most likely a lot.

So now there is a bill in the state Senate that would allow for the distribution of condoms to California prison inmates. The measure has already passed the state Assembly. But even if it gets through the Senate, it may not get past Governor Jerry Brown.  The governor vetoed a similar measure last fall. It’s important to note that the bill does not decriminalize sexual activity among inmates. That would still be illegal. And opponents argue, not only would you encourage illegal behavior by giving away condoms, prisoners could actually use them to store contraband rather than for safe sex.

And while those who object to the measure do make valid points, proponents of the bill may have an even more compelling argument.  By some accounts, the rate of infection with HIV is as much as eight to ten times higher in prisons than among the general public. The state spends nearly $24,000 a year for each HIV infected inmate enrolled in MediCal. Compare that to a previous condom distribution pilot program which cost the state about $1.39 per prisoner.

But perhaps the most convincing argument is that most people behind bars in California eventually get out. And in this case, what happens in prison, unfortunately, may not stay there. It would be naïve to expect that inmates infected with HIV, once released, will be responsible enough to refrain from unprotected sex.  And that puts the public, all of us, men and women alike at potential risk.

Even if you don’t care much what happens to the people behind bars, you should care how they behave once they are released.  Because when an infected parolee has unprotected sex with someone, anyone, not only are those with whom they have immediate contact at risk but so is everyone else with whom all of those people have unsafe sexual contact. And that is a real threat to public health and safety that simply cannot be ignored.
Tony McEwing co-anchors FOX 11 Morning News at 4:30 am and provides news updates for the Emmy award winning Good Day LA, broadcast weekdays from 7:00 - 10:00 am. He also co-anchors the FOX 11 10 am News and the FOX 11 News at Noon.
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