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Policy & Politics

Alaska: Wagoner Bill Passes Easily

April 13, 2004

Senate Bill 309, which would allow inmates in Alaska's prison system to be tested for blood-borne pathogens in the event that correctional officers come into contact with prisoners' blood or other bodily fluids, passed the Senate 19-0 on March 22. Current state law provides for testing of a prisoner only at the request of a rape victim, according to Sen. Tom Wagoner (R-Kenai), the new legislation's sponsor.

On Friday, Wagoner told the House State Affairs Committee that 41 correctional officers last year faced potential exposure to blood-borne pathogens, in most cases because of deliberate actions by prisoners. At present, if blood or bodily fluids or waste contaminate a correctional officer, the prisoner cannot be required to submit a blood sample for testing, Wagoner said in a press release. Officers who have been exposed may undergo treatment with a range of preventive medications for hepatitis, HIV and other contagions; reactions to these can be disruptive to an officer's work and home life, Wagoner said.

In many other states, and in the federal prison system, laws allow authorities to seek a court order compelling a prisoner to submit a blood sample in such cases. In addition to allowing the state to seek court-ordered testing, Wagoner's bill would require that the blood sample be used only for medical purposes: It could not be used as evidence in any other criminal or civil procedure. It would also prohibit the withholding of medical care or treatment to force a prisoner to consent.

Portia Parker, deputy commissioner of the Department of Corrections, told the committee that prisoners typically consent willingly to provide samples in such cases.

Back to other news for April 13, 2004

Adapted from:
Peninsula Clarion
04.12.04; Hal Spence

This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
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