SACRAMENTO (KCBS)— Legislation that would require officials to distribute condoms in all California state prisons is headed to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk. The bill’s author, Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), says the inten is to protect inmates from sexually- transmitted diseases.

Critics have argued that the bill, AB 966, isn’t necessary since sexual activity between prisoners is illegal, but Bonta says sexual activity between inmates is a reality.

“We shape our policies best based on realities as it exists. We’ve had needle exchanges throughout this country even though needles are used for some illicit drug use,” he countered.

The bill passed in the state Senate Thursday, after passing in the Assembly in January.

The legislation would require the state department of corrections to develop a five-year plan to distribute condoms to inmates.

Bonta adds that in the long run, his bill will save the state money.

“The average cost of a patient with HIV in the Medi-Cal system is more than $25,000 per year, but to provide condoms in prison, it only amounts to about $1.39 per prisoner. Conservative studies show that the HIV/AIDS infection rate in prison is estimated to be up to 8 to 10 times higher than among the general population,” he said.

Critics also said that condoms could become contraband instead of being used for their intended purpose. The bill heads to Governor Brown’s desk, after the governor vetoed a similar bill last year.

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