U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) has proposed legislation to put condoms in the hands of federal inmates, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. She hopes the move will help “break the silence” about sex in prison and the disproportionate toll of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections on African Americans. Lee noted that 90 percent of the prison population eventually is released, and many go home and resume relationships with spouses and partners. “When an inmate gets infected, we’re all affected,” Lee said after a town hall forum she hosted Saturday. The rate of AIDS cases among prisoners is triple that of the general population, U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics show.
San Francisco is one of a handful of jurisdictions across the nation to allow condoms in jails. In most states, condoms are still deemed contraband. A bill is pending in the California legislature to permit condom distribution in state institutions. Lee’s bill also calls for prisons to allow community organizations to come into institutions to conduct HIV and sexually transmitted disease counseling, testing and treatment, as well as distribute condoms.