HIV and AIDS activists are baffled by California Governor Jerry Brown's veto of AB 999, the latest of California's proposed condoms-in-prisons bills. It is the third such bill that has been vetoed; the previous two were vetoed by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Entitled The Prisoner Protections for Family and Community Health Act, the measure proposed that California's Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation construct a five-year plan extending the availability of condoms in all California prisons. The bill also required that all non-administrative costs, including condoms and dispensers, would be paid for by donation, according to The Sacramento Bee
In Brown's message regarding the veto, he argues the bill isn't needed because "the Department [of Corrections] currently allows family visitors to bring condoms for the purpose of the family overnight visitation program."
Many activists say that Brown's response fails to address the issue that the bill proposed to correct. Assemblyman Rob Bonta, from Oakland, was the legislator behind the vetoed measure. He told Los Angeles Times
that "Sex in prisons is happening. It's illegal, technically, but it is happening. The issue of family visits is just not the issue."
Instead, he says, the issue is that inmates are having sex with each other and the bill would have helped to prevent the possible transmission of HIV and other STDs both inside correctional facilities and once prisoners are released back into their own communities. HIV rates among prison inmates has escalated in recent years and many activists argue that the release of those HIV-positive prisoners who haven't been treated can partly explain rising rates in some communities.
“Existing condom distribution programs in jails in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and Los Angeles already demonstrate that this California law could work without threatening safety and security in the state’s correctional facilities," says Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "Brown now joins dubious company with former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who vetoed two prior similar condoms in prisons bills during his tenure.”
During Schwarzenegger's tenure, the Los Angeles Times
published an editorial
that criticized his lack of foresight in veoting the bills. Weinstein says he hopes Brown will receive the same media criticism for his veto of AB 999.