Skip to comments.Most prisons shun condom programs
Posted on 11/22/2007 1:17:00 PM PST by Coleus
To activists concerned about AIDS and prisoners' rights, it's an urgent, commonsense step that should already be nationwide policy -- letting inmates have condoms to reduce the spread of sexually transmitted diseases behind bars. Yet their efforts have run headlong into a stronger political force: Authorities' desire not to encourage inmates who flout prison rules against sex. Only one state, Vermont, and five cities regularly hand out condoms to inmates. Mississippi does so only for inmates receiving conjugal visits from their spouses.
Left out are the vast majority of America's 2.2 million prisoners -- many held in facilities where sex between men is common and the risk of STDs is far higher than in the general population. "I realize this is not a comfortable topic for many people, but it's one we simply cannot afford to ignore," said Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif. "When more than 90 percent of incarcerated people return to our communities, taking a head-in-the-sand approach to the fact that our prisons have become a breeding ground for HIV/AIDS poses a serious public health risk."
Despite such warnings, recent efforts to expand behind-bars condom access have gone almost nowhere. Prison officials contend that condoms can be used to conceal drugs, and law-and-order politicians scoff at what they depict as a step that would encourage both consensual and coercive sex. "Removing the freedoms of criminals is in itself a deterrent," said California Assemblyman Paul Cook. "Allowing condoms into prisons simply sends the wrong message and confirms what we all suspect: Our prison system has serious and severe behavioral and inmate-control issues."
A measure introduced by Lee in Congress this year to allow condom access in federal prisons has made little headway. A bill in Illinois failed to clear a legislative committee in March. And a bill in California was vetoed last month by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said the proposal conflicted with prison regulations banning sexual activity. Yet Ron Snyder, an HIV-positive Californian who served 19 months in the state's prison systems for embezzlement, said sex was widespread despite the rules. Some inmates used rubber gloves as makeshift condoms, and some supervisors allowed romantically involved men to share cells, he said.
Schwarzenegger, in his veto message, offered a ray of hope to advocates of condom access. He described it as "not an unreasonable public policy" and instructed corrections officials to assess the feasibility of a pilot program at a yet-to-be-selected state prison. Snyder predicted a "tough struggle" to extend any such program systemwide because of staff attitudes. Many of the correctional officers are from rural areas, "and they assume men don't have sex with men," he said. "They just don't understand the picture."
California already is home to two of the local condom programs, at jails in Los Angeles and San Francisco. New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., also have programs -- New York's dates back to 1987. In Los Angeles, the condoms are distributed by an activist group, the Center for Health Justice, only in a special unit reserved for gay men who ask to be assigned there. San Francisco, for nearly 20 years, has allowed prisoners to be issued condoms by the health staff; distribution was expanded in April in the form of a condom-dispensing machine.
Mary Sylla, the Center for Health Justice's policy director, said there have been no security problems in either city. "If there was a case of somebody doing something horrible with a condom, we would have heard about it -- it would be all over the corrections community," she said. "But it doesn't happen."
I guess male on male rape with a condom is not horrible to these idiots!
I am just so sorry but this is not going to ever be a cause any politico save the Moonbat Baba Lee would want to endorse.
If anybody out there thinks the American public in any state would ever buy into giving convicts condoms....well hey, I got a bridge to sell.
Nope....not gonna happen. And I’m not convinced there’s all that many convicts getting HIV while in prison. I’d have to see some believable stats.
first prisoners are denied the right to vote, now they are denied condoms, the united nations human rights commission is going to have a field day with this one.
Rape’s rape & no prisoner should be subjected to it. The prison system has a duty of care for its inmates.
By all means, keep out the condoms — but, at the same time, protect prisoners from rape. If that means slapping on extra years of prison for prison rapists — in a segregated wing, or solitary, if necessary; then so be it.
Or maybe they'll get in front on this issue.