Joyce Price, Inmate's Lawsuit Point
Up HIV Infection by Prison Rapes,
The Washington Times, June 4, 1995.
inmate has filed a lawsuit against
prison officials charging that they failed to protect him from other
prisoners who repeatedly raped him and infected him with the AIDS virus.
W. Shepherd Smith Jr., president of Americans for a Sound AIDS/HIV Policy,
is familiar with the suit. He and others say prisons are not doing enough
to prevent rapes and the risk of HIV transmission within their walls.
"It's abhorrent that someone who's sent to prison for a nonviolent crime,
such as writing a bad check, may be raped, infected with HIV and given a
death sentence," Mr. Smith says.
National AIDS Policy Director Patricia S. Fleming said in November her
office would work closely with the Justice Department and the federal Bureau of
Prisons to address the issue of "HIV transmission through prison rape."
Her office did not return phone calls seeking up-to-date information about
what is being done.
Theodore M. Hammett, a consultant, prepares a biannual federal study of
AIDS in U.S.
prisons for the National Institute of Justice and the federal Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
He says the lawsuit brought by Michael Eric Blucker, an Illinois inmate
serving 10 years for burglary, "may be the first documented case of [HIV]
seroconversion" involving an inmate during his incarceration.
In other words, the Blucker case may be the first in which a prisoner has
proof he was HIV-negative when he entered a prison and became HIV-positive
during his confinement after being raped.
Mr. Hammett says that other prisoners have made similar charges without
the documentation, and that several studies of individual state
corrections systems have "demonstrated HIV transmission is occurring"
among prison inmates.
"Percentages are small, but it's a serious issue [and] needs to be
addressed with a policy response," he says.
But there is disagreement as to how that should be done.
have addressed the problem with policies that mandate HIV testing of all
prisoners when they enter the corrections system and segregate
HIV-positive inmates, Mr. Hammett says.
Fourteen other states require HIV screening of prisoners at intake but do
not segregate those infected with the virus unless they are engaging in
practices that increase the risk of spreading HIV.
Stephen Donaldson, head of
Stop Prison Rape Inc., agrees that HIV transmission in
prison is "a serious problem" and estimates that "about 5,000 additional
people [in the prison system] per year" become infected.
Mr. Donaldson says that figure was extrapolated from unpublished data from
a study of the
corrections system. The study, conducted by the CDC, found that 0.33
percent, or one-third of 1 percent, of adult male inmates are infected
with HIV behind prison walls each year.
As for prison rapes, Mr. Donaldson cites a recent survey of Nebraska
prisons, conducted by a University of South Dakota researcher, that found
a "22.3 percent sexual victimization rate" among male prisoners and a 7.7
percent rate among female inmates.
"Nationally, our organization estimates there are 360,000 [rape] victims a
year" in prisons, he says.
Same-sex rape between male prisoners means anal sex, which, "unprotected,
is the most risky [sexual] behavior" for transmission of HIV, Mr.
"Gang rape," which is not uncommon in prisons, is especially risky, he
says, because it is particularly bloody, and blood is the "easiest way to
Blucker, the Dixon,
inmate who has sued corrections officials, says he was often the victim of