Condoms In Prison Ordered Goode Overrules Board's Decision

Posted: August 25, 1988

Mayor Goode said yesterday that he has ordered the city Public Health Department to begin providing condoms to prison inmates, beginning Sept. 1, despite the rejection of the mayor's AIDS-prevention measure by the city prison board.

He also has asked the Prisons Board of Trustees to meet again to ratify the AIDS-prevention plan and to begin preparing for its implementation. The board rejected the plan by a 3-2 vote Monday night.

Goode, in an announcement after the opening of a new police mini-station at 50th Street and Willows Avenue in West Philadelphia, said the prison board's approval of the condom plan was "desirable" though "not legally required."

"And therefore, I'm taking this unusual step of directing that this action be done because I feel the health emergency of AIDS within our prison system requires that this step be taken," Goode said.

"Further, I . . . talked with a majority of the board of trustees members and have been assured by them that when this vote is taken between now and 1 September, there will be a majority of them voting in favor of this policy."

David Fair, director of the Health Department's AIDS Activities Coordinating Office, said last night that Goode believes he has the power to set policy for the prison system "and the prison board's position is to implement those policies."

Prison board members "serve at the pleasure" of the mayor, Fair said, and have no set terms.

Goode on Tuesday directed Health Commissioner Maurice C. Clifford, along with the AIDS Activities Coordinating Office, to oversee the controversial program, called the Mayor's Prison AIDS Prevention Policy.

The policy would provide condoms for all prisoners who want them and would set up AIDS-education programs for inmates and prison staff members that stress information about the transmission of the disease and the dangers of unprotected sex. It also would provide prisoners with anonymous AIDS testing and counseling, and treatment for inmates with AIDS or AIDS-related conditions.

"The role of a mayor in the city is to lead, lead on difficult issues and on easy issues," Goode said. "This is a difficult issue. But what is more difficult is to do nothing and have people die who have been in our prison system. And it's time to stop the killing."

Goode said eight people in the prison system have died of AIDS, and "there are clearly others who are infected with the AIDS virus. . . . I do not want to wait until there are 16, or 30 or 40 or 50 inmates who have died before I act," he said. "I want to act now to prevent the death of other people."

Clifford, also speaking at the police mini-station, said that "AIDS infection is, in fact, an epidemic in our city. Perhaps as many as 40,000 people in Philadelphia are infected with this virus. Yet fewer than 400 people have the full-blown AIDS disease.

"It is to prevent as much as possible the spread of the infection and the subsequent development of AIDS, both in the prison population and perhaps of even greater significance, in the general population, that this policy has been proposed."

"The prisoners will be provided AIDS information packets that will include three condoms," Fair said at the police mini-station event. "The AIDS- prevention information is made available at this moment to all prisoners through the central intake system, and condoms will be available as of Sept. 1 upon request to those who come to the prison infirmary."

Fair said the city, in providing condoms to inmates, "is not encouraging sexual behavior in the prisons. In fact, our whole AIDS-prevention program is based on the message that to engage in sexual activity within the prison system is to place your life at risk, condom or no condom."

At the Monday meeting, the opposition to the plan was led by board member M. Mark Mendel, who said the board would appear to be condoning sex among the inmates if it was approved.

". . . Mr. Mendel serves at my pleasure," Goode said yesterday. "And I would make the point that this is the policy of this administration, and I would expect all those persons who are part of this government to fully cooperate in implementing this policy. I have the ability at any point to remove any of those members on the board."

Goode said yesterday that he had spoken with board members and believes there are now enough votes to ratify the plan.

Mendel conceded yesterday that Goode had the authority to reverse the board's decision. Still, Mendel said he would continue his opposition to the condom policy. "Unfortunately from a legal, ethical and religious viewpoint, I cannot vote yes," he said. "But most of all from a perception we give the inmates, I cannot vote yes."

The Rev. Albert Campbell, chairman of the prison board, said the policy was likely to pass the second time around. Mr. Campbell voted for the condom distribution Monday and said he would support Goode's policy.

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