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.
04.12.04; Hal Spence
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This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.