Bill would provide condoms to Calif. inmates

CORRECTION January 30: The Assembly Bill referred to in this story is AB 966. A sentence in an early version of this story misidentifying the bill has been corrected.

SACRAMENTO - A highly debated proposal requiring condoms be available to California prisoners passed through the Assembly Monday.

The bill aims at reducing the spread of HIV and other diseases in prisons.

Currently, condoms are contraband in state prisons and it's a felony for inmates to have sex while in prison.

Assembly Bill 966 is modeled after a pilot program at a state prison in Solano County. There, 800 inmates had access to free condoms in vending machines for a year.

The measure's author, Assem. Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, says it could save the state money in medical costs for inmates who are infected with HIV.

"The average cost per patient with HIV in the Medi-Cal system is more than $25,000 per year," Bonta said. "It could be hundreds of thousands of dollars over the life of a patient. However, providing condoms in prisons would only cost approximately a $1.39 per prisoner to implement and the modest cost of the program will pay for itself if the program averts just a handful of infections per year."

Bonta added, "We have a commitment from the aids healthcare foundation to donate the condoms and dispensers necessary for the implementation of the program."

The proposal would require corrections officials to make condoms available in five prisons by 2015 and expand it to all of California's 33 state prisons by 2020.


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