Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Condoned Condoms for Convicts

In a November 22nd broadcast of NPR's "News and Notes" program, the question was raised about whether condoms should be distributed within prison populations.

Most of the show's panel of guests/commentators are African-American and the show tends to lean toward stories and issues likely to be of concern or consequence to African-Americans. In this case, there's a disproportionate amount of Black people in American prisons and, I believe, there's a disproportionate amount of Black Americans, in general, who have been infected with HIV/AIDS.

In fact, as I mentioned in a previous post, Washington, DC's "secret" HIV/AIDS crisis, those who are infected with the disease, in prison, (whether through rape, consensual sex, or "sexual bartering,") are too likely to infect their wives and girlfriends, after they get out of jail.

To me, this one is a no-brainer, but some say that passing out condoms in prisons is a bad idea, for a number of reasons.

* Some believe that a given inmate won't use the condoms because that would be an acknowledgment of the fact that he's participating in homosexual activities - about which some may be in denial.
Personally, I think that, if all that **censored**in' and **censored**in' ain't a problem for him, then a rubber isn't likely to be a deal-breaker.

* Some say that passing out condoms is encouragement of "the behavior."
E.R. Shipp, in particular, disappointed me with this bass-ackwards line of thinking. She's a highly intelligent, Pulitzer-Prize (for commentating) winning journalist, but this is about saving lives, not about judging how a man should interact with another man.

* Some claim that the money used to distribute condoms would be better spent on testing and segregating infected members of the prison population.
I wish I could remember the name of the gentleman who offered this well-expressed, but disrespectful and potentially illegal alternative.

It's simple. People are getting infected with a life-threatening/fatal disease in high numbers. Some of this is due to choice and some of it is not.

We know doggone well that people are going to have sex. Whether we agree with their choice to do so or their methods of doing so, we ought to value their lives enough to decrease the risks, as much as we can.

If life's not a good enough reason, then how about money? Consider that it's probably going to cost a heck of a lot more to pay for the medical bills of an HIV/AIDS-positive population than to just distribute some rubbers.

The tests are a good idea, but you can't force people to take them. Civil rights aside, segregation isn't fool-proof, as people already-infected with the virus can be REinfected, with a different strain.

It saddens me when people allow religion, homophobia, or residual ignorance to trump the value and potential of human life.


Bobbalicious said...

I'm afraid this is one of those issues that is not going to be addressed or seriously recitfied until it affects a well-placed or somewhat important figure--The same way the public's perception/treatment of people with AIDS wasn't seriously dealt with until Ryan White. Society is often reactive instead of proactive.

West said...

I can't believe condoms are so threatening to some folks.

bobbalicious said...

I've never been able to understand what some people find so detrimental about condoms.

Anonymous said...

I would even push it a step further. The prison industrial complex should be re-examined. The way a supposedly civilized system incarcerates people is completely uncivilized. It is almost a given that a dude going to prison is going to get raped. That is crazy. And not we are adding to disease to the problem. The entire thing is just so crazy. Condoms are a good stop gap, but really the problem is much, much larger. In my mind.

People opposed to condoms need to use them, but it is irresponsible to try to stop others from using them. Any thing that can prevent one more case of AIDS should be used.

Shai said...

It is sad how folks try to control things. So go to the prisoners and get them to be safe with sex. WTF? I mean some them did not care about the safety of folks they robbed, raped and killed why would they care about safe sex.

Safe sex is a rare thing these days. Folks still think they are invincible.

My cousin used to be responsible for drawing blood from County prisoners upon their intake to test for Syphllis. I am glad she does not to that anymore it was scary to me her in a cell with a prisoner and a needle.

West said...

Shai, why do you think that this is about sad folks who "try to control things" instead of concerned citizens who see a deadly trend that needs to be addressed?

Shai said...

West, this is just my perception. I see it as if they cannot get the population in general that are freely going about their business then try and control folks who have no choice. Not saying the prisoners will use the condoms. But the state can "try" and control their behavior.

I am not saying it is not concern. I just question them. I could be wrong.

B. Good said...

I don't see how condoms can ever be a bad idea, especially amongst sexually active adults. Prison or not, all sexually active persons need condoms. They need to be informed, and they should be given the "option" to protect themselves and others. Besides, prisons are supposed to be institutions for rehabiliation, right? Although these prisoners made some questionable choices in their past, that doesn't mean they don't want to make better choices concerning their future.