A controversial new law has been introduced in California requiring all prisons in the state to install condom vending machines.
The new legislation stipulates that within the next five years California must start distributing condoms in around three dozen state prisons.
Inmates inside US prisons are more likely to have sexually transmitted infections and diseases than the general population.
It is hoped that the new law in California will reduce the spread of STIs and STDs like HIV and Hepatitis C.
Previously condoms were contraband in California because sex between prisoners is illegal.
Two previous incarnations of the bill were rejected by Governor Schwarzenegger and Governor Brown before it was finally passed on the third attempt.
Condoms are already available to prisoners in Vermont, while married prisoners are allowed to use them during visits from spouses.
San Francisco started dispensing condoms to inmates in the Eighties in a bid to combat the Aids epidemic at the time. Now there are more than a dozen dispensers in the city’s jails, which distribute around 2,000 condoms each month.
In cities like New York and Washington DC condoms have been available to prisoners since the early Nineties.
San Francisco’s Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, who is a supporter of the new law said, “Frankly, it’s unconscionable that for decades in prisons and jails men and women, who have been exposed to and contracted HIV and Aids, essentially have been neglected when in fact it could have been prevented.”
Sherriff Mirkarimi believes that the legislation should be rolled out across America.
However not everyone is happy with the new bill because it goes against the law about sex behind bars. Critics are also concerned that the condoms could be used to smuggle drugs in and conceal weapons or that they could be filled with liquids and thrown at prison guards.