California on Right Side of History: Governor Signs Bonta Bill to Reduce HIV/AIDS Transmission in Prisons and Throughout California

Monday, September 29, 2014

AB 966 Expands Statewide Successful Condom Distribution
Program in Prison to Protect Public Health

(OAKLAND, CA) – Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) is proud to announce that Governor Brown signed his bill to reduce the transmission of HIV/AIDS and other STDs in prisons and communities throughout California.
“Thank you to Governor Brown for his courage in signing this historic bill, making California only the second state in the nation to provide condoms to prisoners,” said Bonta.
“Sexually transmitted disease is a tragic reality of life in prison. The HIV/AIDS infection rate in prison is estimated to be at least 8 to 10 times higher than among the general population. As the first California Governor to sign a bill to mandate the distribution of condoms in prison, Governor Brown has demonstrated the courage to directly address this unsettling and sometimes disturbing topic.”
Bonta developed AB 966 based on the successful findings of a Solano State Prison condom distribution pilot project conducted in 2008. “The purpose of that pilot project was to determine the practicality and safety of condom distribution in a state prison,” Bonta explained. “The program was an indisputable success. My office carefully drafted AB 966 based on the findings of the Solano pilot project. Once we had the data, the next logical step going forward was program expansion.
“By signing AB 966, Governor Brown places our state on the right side of history, ensuring that our most vulnerable populations are given a basic and critical tool to prevent a deadly disease,” said Bonta.
AB 966 requires the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to develop a five-year plan to distribute condoms in all state prisons. The Solano pilot cost approximately $1.39 per prisoner to implement; and the report concluded that this modest cost paid for itself if the program averted just 2.7 to 5.5 infections per year. According to the California Department of Health Services, the average cost per patient with HIV in the Medi-Cal system is $23,964 per year. 
“The data speaks for itself,” said Bonta. “Over the life of the patient, a single infection can cost the state hundreds of thousands of dollars. The long-term benefits to vulnerable communities, and to the budget, are well-worth the modest state investment in providing condoms to state prisoners. AB 966 is a simple and sound preventative public health policy that is evidence-based, cost effective, informed by a highly successful pilot project, and will save lives.
Since 2006, the Legislature has passed three bills relating to the availability of condoms in state prisons - all were vetoed.  AB 1334 of 2008, by my predecessor in the Assembly, Sandre Swanson, and AB 1677 (Koretz) of 2006 would have required CDCR to allow a nonprofit or public health agency to distribute condoms to inmates.  Governor Schwarzenegger cited conflicts with Sections 286 (e) and 288 (e), which prohibit sexual activity in prison, as the reason for vetoing the legislation, but, in his veto message for AB 1334, he authorized the CDCR to pilot a condom distribution program, which became the basis for Bonta’s AB 999 of last year. AB 999 was subsequently vetoed, to be later reintroduced as AB 966.

“By taking this most basic step in stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS, we are not only advocating for the improved health of prisoners, but we are also protecting communities across the state that could potentially be harmed by communicable diseases when former prisoners relocate to neighborhoods upon reentry. The Solano pilot project found that when condoms are distributed in prisons, they are used. The pilot project also found that condoms do not increase the incidence of consensual sex or rape nor do they create any public safety risk---but they do create an inexpensive barrier to a deadly disease,” Bonta concluded.
Support for the bill includes the AIDS Healthcare Foundation; California Medical Association;  California State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; California Public Defenders Association; California Academy of Preventive Medicine; Beyond AIDS; CAL-PEP (California Prevention and Education Project); APLA (AIDS Project Los Angeles); California Communities United; WORLD (Women Organized to Respond to Life-Threatening Diseases); HIV Education and Prevention Project of Alameda County; Taxpayers for Improving Public Safety; Legal Services for Prisoners with Children; Allen Temple Health & Social Services Ministries; Alameda County Board of Supervisors; the Health Officers Association of California; Alameda-Contra Costa Medical Association; Harm Reduction in Prison Coalition; County of Los Angeles; National Association of Social Workers; Friends Committee on Legislation; Taxpayers for Improving Public Safety; Bay Area State of Emergency Coalition; American Civil Liberties Union; Planned Parenthood; Lambda Legal; and Project Inform.

Visit AB 966 to read the full text of the bill.
Assemblymember Bonta represents the 18th Assembly District, which includes Oakland, Alameda and San Leandro. He is the Chair of the Assembly Public Employees, Retirement, and Social Security Committee and the Select Committee on Gun Violence in the East Bay. Bonta is also a member of the Assembly Health, Transportation, Banking & Finance, and Elections & Redistricting Committees.