Monday, October 14, 2013

Shame! Gov. Brown Vetoes Bll Allowing Condoms In Prison

There is bad news to report today on the status of the progressive goal to improve the lives and health of people in locked facilities in California.

Governor Jerry Brown has finally completed his work on the 900+ bills the Democratic super majority in the California legislature sent him this session. He has taken some action that progressives applaud and some that we can only shake our head at and wonder "What was he thinking?"

Overall, the Governor vetoed 96 bills in total and signed into law 805.

However, some of his more controversial legislative actions took place at the end, which occurred this weekend. On Saturday October 12th, Governor Brown vetoed AB 999 (Prisoner Protections for Family and Community Health Act) which would have eventually allowed condoms in state prisons. The Governor's Office released his veto message:
To The Members of the California State Assembly: 
I am returning Assembly Member Bill 999 without my signature. 
This bill would require the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to develop a plan to expand the availability of condoms to all California prisons. 
The Department currently allows family visitors to bring condoms for the purpose of the family overnight visitation program. While expansion of this program may be warranted, the Department should evaluate and implement this expansion carefully and within its existing authority.  
Edmund G. Brown, Jr
This is disappointing news. As readers of the blog may know, I have been on the board of directors of the Center for Health Justice for years. Health Justice has the mission to eliminate disparities between prisoner health and public health and one way it does this is by distribution of condoms in Los Angeles County jails.

The point of the legislation was to give CDCR the authority (and political cover) to consider the availability of condoms in prisons (we're talking about a condom machine, people). This is because people in prison have sex with each other, and people who are in prison often have sexually transmitted infections. Officially, sex between prisoners is against the law, so making condoms available is viewed by some as an enticement to break the law. Most public health advocates strongly support actions that will "reduce harm" and they agree that increased access to condoms in locked facilities will improve the health of prisoners (and the public) and will not reduce safety for those who work in locked facilities.

It is unfortunate Gov. Brown had to use AB 999 as an example to show less progressive members of the political spectrum his conservative bona fides. He now joins his predecessor, Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in vetoing a measure that would have allowed condoms in prison.

Shame on you, Governor!

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