December 2, 2016
Harm Reduction Prison Coalition Meeting
February 24, 2017
This month’s meeting began with a presentation and discussion on the importance of prophylactic accessibility in prisons and jails. Historically, corrections facilities have shied away from providing prophylactics since individuals being held by state or federal facilities are not considered eligible to consent to sexual acts and sexual acts of any kind are prohibited. However, we know that the prohibition of sexual acts has little bearing on whether or not these acts occur. Because of this inaccessibility to condoms, the spread of HIV and other diseases within jails and prisons is rampant. We know that good prison health is good community health, and part of derailing the spread of HIV within the community involves derailing the spread of HIV within prison populations. This begins with access to prophylactics.
California has noted this problem and is beginning to take action. On February 22, 2013, California enacted the Prisoner Protections for Family and Community Health Act (AB 999). This Health Act acknowledges both that currently incarcerated individuals are not legally allowed to engage in sexual acts, but that this does happen, and the only action one can take to protect the health of both the corrections facility and the community is to provide access to condoms. California began by allowing access to condoms in one state facility to observe the results, as reported in their “Evaluation of a Prisoner Condom Access Pilot Program Conducted in One California State Prison Facility.” Because the results were so positive, California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation was tasked with developing a five-year plan to implement similar actions across the state. As stated in Chapter 10.9 Section 6500b, “Commencing January 1, 2015, no less than five prisons, as determined by the department, shall be incorporated into the program each year, with the final year yielding a comprehensive plan that includes every prison in the state.” Unfortunately, other states are not so forward-thinking with their corrections facility health programs. While some D.C. and Philadelphia prisons have enacted some condom programs, California is the only state to have developed a comprehensive plan to help the spread of HIV within all their state’s facilities.
Additionally, the Harm Reduction Prison Coalition is dedicated to decreasing the spread of HIV, Hepatitis C, and other communicable diseases passed through needles. At this month’s Harm Reduction Coalition meeting, each committee signed a letter to Aids United to fund MWIPM’s Project ACT who will be training individuals around Illinois to advocate for expanding Syringe Exchange Programs, increasing access to Naxolone, and promoting HCV/HIV screening. We hope to be involved in the development of policy that will decrease the spread of HIV and increase access to care.
As always, we hope you will join us for our next Harm Reduction Prison Coalition meeting in December at our so that together we can work to improve our communities. “But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” James 1:25