From the Post Archives

Protest Asks Condoms for D.C. Inmates

Keith A. Harriston
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 9, 1993; 1:52 PM

A coalition of AIDS awareness groups demonstrated yesterday at the D.C. Department of Corrections, saying agency officials haven't done enough to slow the spread of HIV among inmates.

Leaders of the group, the Metropolitan Condom Availability Coalition, said the department only recently has begun to implement Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly's plan to distribute condoms and provide AIDS education to inmates at the Lorton Correctional Complex and the D.C jail.

The group said quick implementation is crucial because 20 percent of the male inmates and 25 percent of the female inmates are infected with HIV. At least 32 inmates died of AIDS last year.

About three dozen members of the group participated in the hour-long protest at the Corrections Department headquarters on Vermont Avenue NW.

"We really have gotten so frustrated that we had to stage a demonstration to draw attention to the problem," said Aurie Hall, of the D.C. Prisoners Legal Services Project. "When you go out and ask the inmates, they don't know condoms are available."

Distribution of condoms and dental dams, a piece of latex that can be used to protect against transmissions of viruses during oral sex, are part of Kelly's five-year comprehensive AIDS plan announced a year ago.

The idea is contrary to prison rules, which forbid sex. Leaders of the union that represents corrections officers have opposed condom distribution. They said it signals to inmates that having sex is permitted, and they fear that inmates may try to use condoms to smuggle contraband into the prisons.

But the growing number of HIV-infected inmates among the 11,000 men and women in the D.C. corrections system made drastic measures necessary, city officials said.

Walter Hill, a department spokesman, said 10,000 condoms have been made available to inmates, who must get counseling before receiving the condoms.

Last month, the department placed condom dispensers in two of the nine facilities at Lorton, Hill said. Eventually, the dispensers will be in all of the facilities.

© 1993 The Washington Post Company