June 24, 2011
This week, the state Department of Corrections began investigating allegations that a man was denied his prescribed HIV drugs while held in jail for a week in Bureau County.
On Sept. 29, Arick Buckles, a Chicago HIV/AIDS outreach worker, was booked into the Bureau County Jail in Princeton on an outstanding warrant for passing bad checks. During the week he was held, Buckles said he asked repeatedly for his HIV drugs, as did friends and a minister who contacted BCJ on his behalf. He said he was told he could not have his own pills brought to him because they were stored in a day-by-day organizer and not in their original containers. Buckles said he experienced diarrhea, fatigue, and light-headedness without the three-pill combination.
Bureau County uses a private firm, Peoria-based Advanced Correctional Healthcare, to provide jail medical services. Under its contract, the county is responsible for the cost of inmates' HIV drugs.
A nurse's notes mention notifying the state's attorney of the cost of Buckles' medicines, more than $2,000 a month. After one week in jail, Buckles said a sheriff's deputy came to tell him he was being released because the county could not afford his treatment. Bureau County Sheriff John Thompson did not respond to repeated AP requests for comment.
Illinois requires that jails provide medical care, including prescription drugs. BCJ violated Buckles' right to medical treatment, says a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union. Poor HIV treatment is a common problem in jails, particularly because of the high cost, said ACLU attorney John Knight, who is awaiting BCJ's response and has not ruled out a lawsuit.
Buckles said he wants to ensure future inmates receive better care. "I'm interested in them correcting what they did wrong," Buckles said.