So I saw this story about the Jamaican government’s decision not to distribute condoms in their prisons, and I thought that an interesting topic. Although I’ve no idea how things happen in prisons, we’ve all heard the stories or seen movies like Shawshank Redemption in which we get an idea. I saw an Oprah show once on which she had a man who had lost all his teeth while in prison. Just lost ’em, eh? Even Oprah wondered about that one and looked at him sideways in that disbelieving but I don’t want to call you a liar questioning way that she has. I’ve seen news magazine shows with segments devoted to the phenomena of heterosexual men engaging (sometimes even by choice) in homosexual sex while incarcerated and then reverting to a strictly heterosexual lifestyle after release (er, from prison, that is). To hear the media tell it, prison is one large orgy, with inmates having sex with everyone from the laundry delivery folks to the guards (and of course with each other).
And the cases of HIV positive and AIDS patients is rising in prison. Personally, I think this is at least in part because they are criminals, often in some way associated with drug use, specifically i.v. drug use or with prostitution (since we’re talking about condoms, let’s narrow that to “male prostitution). So the Jamaican government considered distributing condoms among the prison population; seems reasonable. If you don’t want them, don’t take them? Or make water balloons? Or blow them up and craft balloon animals like at the circus? But the Jamaican prisoners rioted, incensed at the suggestion that they are homosexual or engaging in sex with members of the same sex. This seems incredibly foolhardy (or macho); I’d rather die of AIDS, please, than be “labeled.”
The Times has a story about condom availability in some U. S. prisons, and apparently, one of the keys to the success of the program is that the inmates not feel “judged” by prison officials and can pick up a condom or two at a variety of places within the prison. I find this intriguing, and it also puts me in a peculiar position in that I have always thought that condoms should be made available to and sex ed taught to teens. One of my thought processes went along the lines of having condoms available is not a license to have irresponsible or underage sex (kids are doing it anyway, basically).
But with this prison thing, I find I’m reversing my opinion. Maybe, just maybe, some of the prisoners are refraining from sex (forced) because they fear AIDS or Hepatitis C, and maybe, just maybe, that fear would be alleviated by free and open access to condoms? I don’t know, really, and haven’t done much research (er, any), so maybe that’s wrong. Maybe everyone is randomly and rampantly engaged in sex behind bars? Why not? We all saw the footage of Richard Speck living it up in prison, doing drugs, drinking alcohol, prancing in women’s panties, and bouncing his new boobs around–basically enjoying himself a great deal (note: if you have not seen this footage, it is very disturbing and very graphic, not for the faint of heart). Speck, you may remember, systematically and brutally killed eight female nursing students in 1966. So off he goes to prison, where apparently, he was receiving female hormones to change his body (how else the man boobs?), this I can only hope was not billed to the taxpayer, but who knows? We pay for all sorts of crazy stuff for prisoners.
I think that if condoms could be made available at the cost we pay at the 7-11, it might be worth doing, but our government can’t seem to understand that $640 is a bit much for a toilet seat (story inthe next link). Well, they did understand it, change it, and then, thanks to Al Gore, we’re back to paying ridiculous sums for everyday items (like $7,600 coffee makers, etc.). So a single condom might well run into the hundreds, possibly thousands. And then it becomes a joke. Question: How many thousands of dollars do we need to spend on condoms to save money on prison healthcare? Answer: as many as it takes, even if it exceeds the amount spent on prison healthcare related specifically to std’s, Hep C, and AIDS.
So, I’ve got no answers, really, and I’m not even sure where I stand on this issue (odd enough given my opinionated nature), but I do think it’s an interesting topic (or series of topics).
P. S. A special thanks to Em for telling me not only how to insert links but how to name them! Yay!