Almost 2,000 prisoners are taking part in a sexual health study, comparing NSW, which offers condoms in prisons, and Queensland, which does not.

The Sexual Health and Attitudes of Australian Prisoners (SHAAP) study has completed 1000 surveys in NSW and has started randomly selecting 900 male and 150 female survey subjects from high security centres in Queensland.

Queensland’s Department of Corrective Services Offender Programs and Services Executive Director Di Taylor said prisoners were a high-risk group for sexual ill health, and the results would help improve policy and services.

At the moment rumour and anecdotes dominate views and there has been a lack of Queensland-specific research, Taylor wrote in the Corrective Services newsletter last week.

The study is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council and will be published by the National Centre in HIV Social Research.

However, Dr Wendell Rosevear, who has worked in prisons since 1980 and specialised in rape victims and offenders, wants condoms introduced now to protect consenting partners.

There was a lot of prejudice against condoms by officers because they think they’ll be used for illegal things, but consenting sex is not illegal, he told SSO.

They had a lot of prejudice that there might be a lot of rape, but in my experience rapists don’t see themselves or other people as valuable, so they don’t use condoms. It’s illogical to think condoms would promote rape.

But he said there weren’t enough efforts made to reduce rape in prisons either.

I call it a revenge mentality in Australia. People see the fear of rape as a deterrent for jail and crime, he said.

But no one deserves to be raped, even if they’ve made other mistakes in their life. The attitude of using rape as a deterrent really is saying people deserve to suffer.

Internalised homophobia was also a barrier to sexual health in prisons, Rosevear said, as many did not see themselves as gay or had unresolved sexuality issues and turned to alcohol or drugs.

Some say -˜outside I am attracted to women, but inside I find myself attracted to men. What does that make me?’ he said. I respond with -˜it makes you a human being who wants to connect and deserves to be loved’.

Unresolved sexuality and abuse are risk antecedents to drug, alcohol or crime problems. Some have internalised homophobia and commit homophobic crimes. I have seen four murders that are really internalised homophobia in origin.

Have your say: Should condoms be available in all prisons?

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