Condoms in jails


What’s more important — upholding the law or saving money? Californians know the benefits of condoms and think preventing disease, which in turns saves taxpayer dollars, trumps preventing a felony. The California Senate approved a plan for free condoms to be available in adult prisons even though it’s a felony to have sex behind bars.

Felony or not, inmate sexual activity happens. Condoms are the best protection against the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, and supplying prophylactics is less costly than treating diseases.

This bill by Democrat Assemblyman Rob Bonta, Oakland, passed in the California Senate with a vote of 21-13. Now it’s on to the Assembly, and if it passes there, into law, five prisons in the state will be passing out rubbers by 2015 with the remaining 28 California correctional institutions following suit by 2020.

The Golden state is often a trailblazer but it’s not the first to pass out prophylactics in prisons. Vermont takes that. And, many other countries–most of Europe, South Africa, Indonesia, even Canada — have been doing it for awhile. If the Kanucks and Indonesians can do it, why has it taken so long for the U.S., which has the largest inmate population? Did you know that the U.S. has 500 prisoners per 100,000 residents, or about 1.6 million prisoners in 2010*. Comparable size countries have only 100 prisoners per the same amount of residents. Without condoms in California jails, there could be a helluva lot of STDs.

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