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California bills target inmate rape, condoms

California bills target inmate rape, condoms

Inmates would be given condoms and corrections officials would be required to make the prevention of prison rapes a priority under two bills that advanced in the California state assembly on Tuesday. One of the bills, which passed out of the public safety committee on a 4-2 vote, would allow nonprofit groups and health agencies to distribute condoms and other bodily fluid barriers in California prisons. The bill's sponsor, Assemblyman Paul Koretz, said various studies put the incidence of homosexual activity in prisons at between 30% and 60% of male inmates, while HIV infection is at least five times that of the outside population. The state spends $18 million annually treating HIV and AIDS in prison, Koretz said. "It's unrealistic to think we have the ability to completely eliminate sex in prison," he added. Benjamin Lopez, of the Traditional Values Coalition, argued that the bill would tacitly encourage sexual relations, which, even if consensual, are illegal behind prison walls. Providing condoms to inmates would be similar to giving inmates clean needles to use contraband drugs, he said. The second bill, which was advanced by the committee on a 5-1 vote, would require the Department of Corrections to take efforts to prevent prison rape. Lara Stemple, executive director of the Los Angeles-based organization Stop Prison Rape, said one in every five male inmates is pressured or forced into sex, and one in 10 is forcibly raped in prison. "It's gone largely unreported," said the bill's sponsor, Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg. "This is a human rights issue that is often clouded by judgment and bias." The condom bill goes next to the appropriations committee. Both bills must be passed by the full house before going to the senate. (AP)

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