California inmates in prisons may soon be able to have safe sex, even if it’s illegal. Oakland Democratic Assemblyman Rob Bonta has proposed giving inmates condoms, even though sex between inmates is a felony. The bill, AB999, which passed the Assembly and is headed for the state Senate, would require the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to give condoms in five prisons by 2015 and be in all 33 state prisons by 2020.
The University of California, San Francisco, has estimated the rate of HIV infection is 10 times higher among prisoners than among the public. 1,000 prisoners are already infected, roughly 1% of the inmate population.
Vermont has given condoms to prisoners since 1992. Mississippi has given condoms to married prisoners since the mid-1990s.
There are dissenters; Republican Assemblyman Dan Logue of Marysville told CBSLosAngeles, “It’s a felony for prisoners to have sex while they’re in prison, so I don’t think it’s good government for the state to encourage inmates to break the law.” Others are concerned that drugs or contraband could be hidden in the condoms, or they could be filled with bodily fluids and hurled at prison or jail employees, a common practice.
Only one Republican voted for Bonta’s proposal when it passed in the state Assembly.
Bonta pointed out that there have been cases of inmates having sex with employees, saying, “That’s of course potentially possible, and we’ve seen incidents of it happening, although it’s illegal. I mean, sexual contact between prisoners is technically illegal. But it happens, and I think we need to deal with reality as it stands.”
Steve Whitmore, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, was in favor of the proposal, telling CBSLosAngeles: “It’s against the law to have sex in jail, and the sheriff has said that when we know of it, we will take action. But he’s also said, practically, it’s going to happen. We want to prevent people from becoming sick. We want to prevent people from dying.”