The state of California is considering providing condoms to inmates in state prisons in order to bring down the rate of STDs and the spread of HIV.
The proposed law, AB999, by Oakland Democratic Assemblyman Rob Bonta would force the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to make condoms available in five prisons by 2015 and all 33 state prisons by 2020.
The bill cleared the Assembly on a 44-26 vote, but must now pass the state Senate.
However, some critics say that AB999 would actually contradict another law.
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"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," Republican Assemblyman Dan Logue told the Associated Press.
"Who would be using those? Would they be guards or people who work in prison to have sex with prisoners?"
Bonta countered: "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."
Condoms have been available to prison inmates in San Francisco since 1989 and in Los Angeles County since 2001.
"It's really turned out to be not a big deal, and hopefully it's fostering some good practices on the outside and saving some families' lives," Susan Fahey, spokeswoman for the San Francisco Sheriff's Department, told the Associated Press.
"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," said Steve Whitmore, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. "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."
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Source: Associated Press