JDI IN THE NEWS - ARCHIVED

Inmate Says Prison Allowed Him to be "Sex Slave," Contract AIDS, Agence France Presse, August 29, 1997.

A jury deliberated Friday on a suit from a former inmate who charged that Illinois prison officials allowed him to be used as a "sex slave" and to contract the AIDS virus while serving a 10-year sentence for burglary and auto theft.

The suit filed by Michael Blucker, 28, went to a jury in an East St. Louis, Illinois, federal court Thursday after a four-day trial. The jury was continuing its deliberations Friday. If Blucker wins, it would be the first time a prison system is found responsible for an inmate contracting the AIDS virus, said Donald Collins, president of the non-profit Los Angeles-based organization Stop Prisoner Rape, Inc. Blucker has asked for 1.5 million dollars in damages.

Blucker maintained that while serving time during 1993 and 1994 in Illinois' Menard Correctional Center, he was repeatedly raped by a number of gang members and was sold as a prostitute for cigarettes and coffee.

His suit charges that prison employees were responsible for Blucker contracting the HIV virus because they knew of the rapes and showed "deliberate indifference" to what was happening.

But prison spokesman Nic Howell says that Blucker contracted HIV through consensual sex in exchange for drugs. Prison officials also told the court that he declined offers to be separated from the general inmate population and refused to cooperate in bringing charges against other prisoners.

Some politicians are calling for separating HIV-positive prisoners from the rest of the population and mandatory HIV testing of prisoners. This is already done in two states but not recommended under federal health guidelines, Howell said.

Some AIDS activists also argue that mandatory testing of prisoners would violate their privacy rights.

Illinois State Representative Cal Skinner said that about 100 inmates a year in Illinois contract HIV. It is an "unadjudicated death sentence" for them, he said.

Stop Prison Rape, Inc. estimates that 300,000 prisoners are raped annually across the country. AIDs is the number one cause of death among Illinois prisoners, Skinner said.