Taxpayers pay for thousands of condoms, lube, dental dams for federal inmates

Are Canadians paying for prisoners’ condoms?
Canadian taxpayers are paying for tens of thousands of condoms and other sex products for prisoners. A new tender is calling for a supplier for 11,000 for Saskatchewan alone. Abigail Bimman explains the safe sex situation behind bars in a Global News exclusive.

Condoms, lubricant and dental dams are available to prisoners for free across the country, and it’s all paid for by taxpayers. And if you sell sex products, right now you can compete to sell thousands of items in Saskatchewan.

The government this week posted an open tender looking for a toiletry supplier for the three federal institutions in that province. Along with the personal items you may expect to see on a list — soap and toothbrushes, for example — Correctional Service of Canada estimates it will need 11,000 condoms, 3,500 single-use lubricants and 2,000 dental dams over the next year.

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A CSC spokesperson pointed to a policy calling for “reasonable steps to ensure that every inmate is provided with toilet articles and all other articles necessary for personal health and cleanliness.”

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In response to written questions, communications advisor Lindsay Holloway said providing free products is about keeping inmates safe. A high number of inmates arrive in prison with a history of high-risk sex (involvement in the sex trade, or with injection drug users, as examples), tattooing, fighting and drug use. They have a higher risk of blood-borne sexually transmitted infections, such as AIDS and Hepatitis C.

“While the absolute numbers of [blood borne sexually-transmitted infections] diagnosed among inmates are low, the rate exceeds the general population of Canada,” said Holloway.
“To reduce the risk of transmission of [blood borne sexually-transmitted infections] in inmates, CSC provides preventative measures such as condoms, dental dams and lube free of charge.”
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In 2005, CSC instituted an enhanced screening form to identify new inmates who have those diseases.

“There’s, I think, legitimate concern when taxpayers are paying for things that inmates are using,” said Aaron Wudrick, federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Association.

“But if the reality is they’re going to engage in this behavior anyway, that’s going to lead to higher costs for taxpayers. It’s just cheaper for us to deal with this up front.”

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Wudrick points to the fact taxpayers pay for inmates’ medical treatment.

“If they have more disease, it’s going to cost more in the long run. So this could actually be the cheaper option and I think that’s reasonable.”

He added the government should track success.

“If the objective is to reduce this incidence, they should check and see it’s actually doing so,” Wudrick said.

While these sex supplies are available for free at all federal institutions from dispensers in “discreet areas,” Saskatchewan appears to be the only province that posted a tender listing specific supplies. CSC did not answer questions by deadline about how many condoms are ordered nationwide or about the purchase policies in other provinces.

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The 11,000 condoms in Saskatchewan would service just under a thousand inmates. As of Monday, the Saskatchewan Penitentiary has 738 inmates, the Regional Psychiatric Centre has 150 and the Willow Creek Healing Lodge 55.

The prison and the healing centre are male-only facilities, while the psychiatric centre houses both men and women. The Saskatchewan Penitentiary in Prince Albert houses all level of prisoners, from minimum all the way up to maximum security.

In 2016 and again in 2017, a $48,000 annual contract was awarded to Jet Uniform and Supply Ltd. for a long list of toiletries, including the sex products. In those years, the demand was higher — 19,500 condoms, 18,500 single-use lubricants and 3,050 dental dams.

CSC says the items are ordered on an “as-needed” basis, but didn’t explain whether the lower demand was due to a drastic drop in expected inmate sexual needs this year or an over-exuberant order in the years prior.

“Based on need, items are supplied to meet demand. Orders are adjusted to ensure an excessive over-stock does not occur,” said Holloway.

As for the type of products needed, no brand is mentioned. The tender calls for “condoms, latex, non lubricated/non sperm, packaged individually.”