Bill Mandating HIV Tests for Released, Paroled Prison Inmates Passes in Arkansas; Similar Legislation Stalls in Kentucky
Two states recently took action on legislation that would require inmates to be tested for HIV prior to release. Summaries of news coverage on the actions appear below.
- Arkansas: The Arkansas House on Monday voted 95-0 to approve a bill (HB 1444) that would require state inmates to receive HIV tests before being released, the Arkansas News Bureau reports (Moritz/Thompson, Arkansas News Bureau, 2/27). Arkansas Rep. Fred Allen (D) earlier this month introduced a version of the bill that would have required inmates to undergo tests for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections before being paroled. The House public health committee previously tabled the bill but endorsed it after Allen amended the proposed legislation to require only HIV tests for all inmates being released, not just those being paroled. Allen also removed from the original bill a requirement that all Arkansas Department of Correction employees receive an HIV test. In addition, the amended version requires inmates who test positive to be provided with counseling on treatment options (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/26). Allen said the tests would cost the state about $34,000 annually, adding that the test would not be a condition for parole (Arkansas News Bureau, 2/27).
- Kentucky: The Kentucky Senate on Tuesday returned a bill (SB 201) to the Senate Judiciary Committee that would require state prison inmates to receive HIV tests before being paroled, the Louisville Courier-Journal reports. Under the bill, sponsored by Sen. Dan Seum (R), spouses would be informed of the results. An amendment to the measure would extend the mandate to county jails. According to the Courier-Journal, the bill was developed because of concern from local pastors of black churches about high HIV/AIDS rates in the black community. Almost one-third of the state's prison inmates are black, according to the Courier-Journal. The Senate returned the bill after determining that it violated the state constitution, which says all bills that call for an increase in revenue must originate at the House. It also violated a Senate rule that amendments requiring spending identify a funding source. The bill would cost the state $275,275. State Sen. Tim Shaughnessy (D), who supports the measure, said, "The reality is: This money is not in our budget" (Ungar, Louisville Courier-Journal, 2/28).