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Condoms Kept out of Prisons for Fear of Encouraging Sexual Contact

By Timmy Watson in News on Mar 18, 2007 8:20PM

Rep. Bobby Rush and two co-sponsors introduced a bill to the U.S. House of Representatives in January that would allow groups to hand out condoms to inmates. The Tribune reports that inmates are 5 times more likely to contract HIV than others. A similar bill was struck down by an Illinois State House committee 6-5 on Thursday, leaving the controversial and unpopular issue in the hands of the U.S. Senate. The AIDS foundation of Chicago, however, is looking for middle ground with the Illinois Department of Corrections.

The debate is controversial for a few reasons. Most apparent are the reasons that faith based groups have, which is their on message mantra that first ascribes to abstinence only. 07_03_18_ilprison.htmHanding out condoms, they believe, would also encourage homosexuality. This is to be expected, as this debate has been going on for years. The second issue is that of sexually activity in prisons. Sexual contact is prohibited inside prison walls and legislators along with some at the prison facilities believe handing out condoms would encourage sexual contact.

Sexual activity is going to occur regardless of whether or not it is prohibited, 1 percent of inmates are raped and while a perpetrator may not use a condom it is pretty irresponsible to restrict access to condoms. Rev. Doris Green, director of community affairs for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago is pushing hard for the bill. She explains to the Trib that she is concerned for the African American community, which accounts for half of the nationwide case of HIV/AIDS. As she explains, "It's about more than just the prisoners." As the men are released they may pass along the infection to family or someone else. Certain prisons, in L.A. and Washington, D.C. allow inmates to receive condoms. The county jail in L.A., however, only allows their gay inmates access to condoms. This may or may not be too effective though, as the article points out, sex between inmates and prison workers is also an issue. Only 13 percent of guards at the D.C. prison indicated that more issues have arisen due to the distribution of condoms.