Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Condoms for Inmates?

Philly has a very liberal policy regarding prison sex...they claim it's against the rules, yet the provide condoms (at the taxpayer's expense) to prisoners (approximately 8,000 condoms a year) and they are looking to increase the distribution by also making them available at the commissary.

"Members of ACTUP Philadelphia, the local chapter of a national activist network dedicated to ending the AIDS crisis, said they are hopeful an updating of the policy would make it easier for inmates to get condoms, as was the intention of the 1988 policy instituted by Mayor W. Wilson Goode.

Before that, prisoners said they were so frightened of getting AIDS they fashioned makeshift condoms from garbage bags and the like - a practice still reportedly taking place in other systems.

ACTUP organizers said they believe the city would continue to be a leader on the issue of AIDS prevention and adopt an updated policy that would end any misunderstandings and presumably increase condom use.

"We're really, really happy that we have a prison system that doesn't have its head in the sand," ACTUP organizer Jose de Marco said. "This is a health issue." (source)

Here's the thing - I get the argument from AIDS activists that prisoners are 5X more likely to contract the HIV virus and it's much less expensive for taxpayers to foot the condom bill than the vast expense involved in HIV/AIDS long term care. The fact that many of the inmates having sex may not be willing participants makes the argument for condoms more palatable, BUT...

...I honestly don't think this measure will have any effect on the rate of HIV/AIDS contractions within the prison system. Most prisoners that engage in prison sex don't consider the act "sex". It's on the DL...they have wives and girlfriends...and it's not something that's discussed. It's about domination and power --so asking for or donning a condom would be an admission that "sex" was about to take place. Many of the prisoners are raped and most rapists won't take the time to sheath their weapon with a condom. It seems to me that in light of the hush-hush, violent nature of prison sex, this program will only send a message that "it's okay" to continue with this behavior and may put weaker prisoners at greater risk...

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