For the incarcerated, justice can be as rare as a decent meal.
Michael Blucker was jailed in 1992 for burglary and auto theft; he was
paroled five years later, allegedly a survivor of sexual slavery and
multiple rapes that left him infected with HIV. But the former Illinois
inmate found no relief when he accused Menard Correctional Center
officials of not only allowing the crimes but transferring known rapists
to his cell.
A federal jury rejected Blucker’s claims against five officials, and
deadlocked on two others. Both sides agreed – after some debate – that
he became infected while an inmate, but Big House attorneys argued that
the act was consensual. The former prisoner, who asked for $1.5 million
in damages, is seeking a second trial. "This decision will allow prison
administrators to keep their heads buried in the sand as to the extent
of sexual violence inside," said Jack Beck, an attorney at the legal Aid
Society’s prisoners’ Rights Project. "It’s a virtual certainty that HIV
transmission is occurring in prison due to rape." Sex assaults in the
slammer are next to impossible to prove due to prisoners’ fear-driven
reluctance to come forward, beck added. Aggravating matters is the
policy nixing condom distribution – based on the official delusion that
sex is prohibited among prisoners and therefore they never have it.
A Menard spokesperson spun the jury’s judgement as proof that present
policies adequately protect prisoners, while Republican state
legislators seized on the high-profile case to call for segregation of
prisoners with HIV. But Deborah Jacobs, executive director of the ACLU
Eastern Missouri, said, "That would only perpetuate harassment and
increase stigma." It would also violate the law that prohibits public
ID’ing of PWAs. The Illinois Department of Corrections recently
instituted forced testing of prisoners.