Supplementary Submission on HIV/AIDS in Prison: Treatment, Intervention, and Reform
The ALP and Treatment Action Campaign made a submission to the Jali Commission in March 2004 entitled “HIV/AIDS in Prison: Treatment, Intervention, and Reform”. The submission dealt with the origins and causes of HIV infection in prisons, HIV prevalence in prisons, the HIV/AIDS policy of the Department of Correctional Services, including early release, and finally made recommendations, including several on the early release of prisoners with HIV/AIDS.
In that submission, it was argued that the policy on early release for prisoners on medical grounds should be updated to accommodate the increasing number of prisoners who are dying of AIDS while incarcerated. As indicated in the submission, there is little research dealing with the numbers of prisoners infected with HIV, but there are indications that it is a serious problem and that there has been a dramatic increase in the numbers of prisoners dying in prison, which has been attributed to HIV/AIDS. In his report on behalf of the Judicial Inspectorate of Prisons, Judge Fagan made the following observation:
There has been a rapid escalation in the number of natural deaths in prison. During 1995 the natural death rate among prisoners was 1.65 deaths per 1,000 prisoners, last year it was 7.75 deaths per 1,000 prisoners. The continued escalation in natural deaths at the current rate of 34% per annum will mean that about 15,000 prisoners could die in the next 5 years. The current early release policy for terminally ill prisoners will have to be reconsidered. Although legislation does provide for the early release of terminally ill sentenced prisoners, it excludes unsentenced prisoners. The application of this option of early release on parole has decreased. In 1996 about 20% of terminally ill prisoners were released compared to the only about 6% last year. Last year was however considerably better than the year before.
The Jali Commission has subsequently requested the ALP to make an additional submission in which we address the issue of early release of prisoners with HIV/AIDS in more detail.