The impact of HIV and other infectious diseases on the criminal justice system has been ignored for a long time without clear efforts being made to assess the situation. The numbers of people who go through the criminal justice system represent almost a quarter of the population of the entire United States of America. The HIV pandemic does not discriminate and it attacks everyone in equal measure. Thus, the criminal justice system does not escape this scourge and equally suffers from the impacts of these diseases.
This paper looks at the impact that HIV and other infectious diseases have on the system and how it impinges on the roles of the members of the justice system. The paper will analyze the impact on the security system of the country when police officers are affected or infected by these diseases. It will also discuss how the stability of the country is threatened when there is not sufficient security. The role of correctional officers is also affected by these diseases in correctional facilities.
The criminal justice system represents an important infrastructural institution in the country vital to the security of the entire country. This institution is a symbol of peace, law, and order of any nation and is a vital cog in the augmentation and advancement of each and every country. It is a system designed with the sole purpose of keeping the country together by making sure that the citizens of that country observe, abide, and obey the laws established in that country.
It is an administrative tool with the duty to administer law and order. The criminal justice system has a preventive, punitive, and correctional mandate in the maintenance of law and order in society. It has the critical responsibility of sustaining the security, stability, and viability of the country. When it is not fully functional, there will be chaos and instability in the country (Shevory, 2004).
Regardless of this clear mandate of the criminal justice system and the importance of its smooth functioning, little attention has been paid to it in regards to the impacts of HIV and other infectious diseases. Indeed, the system has not been left behind by the epidemic that is HIV and other infectious diseases with many documented reports of police officers, correctional officers, and other members who are either infected or affected by these diseases. However, not many studies exist that highlight the impact of these diseases on the criminal justice system.
Many studies and research papers have been done showing just how HIV\AIDS and other infectious diseases have affected other institutions. One cannot miss reports on the impact of these diseases on health and healthcare sectors, educational sectors, and economic and financial sectors. There is research on the impact of HIV on the military, politics, societal integration, and even family.
The lack of similar studies in the criminal justice system cannot, in any sense whatsoever; be used as an indication that the impact may be minimal or non-existent. It simply highlights the lack of interest and assumption of the criminal justice system. It is well documented that HIV does not discriminate against any particular individual. Thus, the criminal justice system has not been left behind.
The character of HIV and other infectious diseases was well captured by Colin Powell, Secretary of State, when addressing the UN special session on AIDS on July 23, 2001, as follows: "no war on the face of the earth is more disparaging than the AIDS endemic. I was a soldier. I know of no adversary in war more sinister or brutal than AIDS, an enemy that presents a clear and present danger to the world. The war on AIDS has no front lines; we must wage it on every front" (Dickson, 2001). This quote indeed captures how no one can escape from the clutches of these diseases including the criminal justice system.
These diseases, therefore, interfere with the proper and smooth functioning of the criminal justice system. This interference affects the implementation of the law and order mandate that is the sole responsibility of the criminal justice system. This institution is made of many parts, which have been summed up to form the criminal justice system.
It includes police officers who have the sole mandate of maintaining law and order, prosecutors who prosecute those charged with various offenses before the courts of law, judges who listen to criminal cases brought before them and make their rulings based on the evidence presented, correctional officers who handle the convicted individuals, and many other members.
Therefore, when a certain section of this group has been affected, the functioning of the entire section is compromised. For instance, when a police officer is affected or infected by HIV and other infectious diseases thereby being unable to apprehend individuals who violate law and order, a prosecutor will, therefore, not have cases to take to the court while a judge may be rendered useless similar to a correctional officer (Johnson, 2006). These units are intertwined and work in a coordinated manner that is meant to achieve the greater good for the public.
The Impact on the Security of the Nation
Usually, the concept of security is traditionally associated with the military that has long been known as the sole defender of the state. However, today the provision of national security solely rests on the police and not the military. The provision of national security remains a vital element of the stability and viability of any nation in the world. Human security ensures the guarantee of protection, the enforcement of individual rights, and the achievement of social stability.
As Conceptualized by Hubert (1999)
human security means security for people from both hostile and non-violent threats. It is a situation or state of being characterized by freedom from insidious threats to people's rights, their safety, or even their lives. It is a substitute way of viewing the world, taking human beings as its reference point, rather than focusing exclusively on the sanctuary or territory of governments.
Like other security concepts "national security, economic security, food security" it is about protection. Human security entails taking preventive measures to reduce vulnerability and minimize risk and taking remedial action where prevention fails.
It is, therefore, in this context that these diseases threaten the security of the nation by impacting the criminal justice system. Whenever individuals trusted with the duty of providing security and maintaining law and order are infected by HIV and other infectious diseases, their ability to provide their duties is greatly hampered.
These diseases reduce the life expectancy of the person infected, which poses a threat to the life of the security officers of the country. It similarly limits participation in the day-to-day activities of the police officers. It, therefore, undermines the provision of security to the country leading to an increase in the war of crimes and other activities that may act as indicators of the apparent lack of security (University of Pretoria, 2007).
Reports indicate that police officers and other law enforcement officers engage in very risky activities, which expose them to the perils of constricting these diseases. Most police officers enter the line of service when they are very young and are posted in different areas far from their wives and girlfriends. It causes the officers to have multiple sexual partners who render them vulnerable to the threat of contracting HIV and other infectious diseases. There is also the sensitive issue of men having sex with men in the security service.
This issue remains unaddressed despite the fact that it is happening within the police service. The failure to openly address the issue exposes these individuals to a greater risk of contracting HIV if risk reduction methods are not known. When the security institution given the duty of ensuring the wellbeing of the general public becomes a victim of these diseases, the consequence is that the protection of the nation is exposed (Barret-Grant, 2003).
It happens simply because the security force becomes weak, sickly, and severely depleted of human labor to effectively provide security sufficient enough to assure the security of its citizens. Therefore, it is reflected in the facts that the number of criminal activities is increased, murder rates go up, and criminal gangs emerge while the persistence of petty crimes and petty offenders remains a reality.
The impact of HIV and other infectious diseases on the security of the country is further aggravated by the high level of discrimination that is associated with a police officer contracting these diseases. For some unknown reasons, there seems to be a general acceptance that an individual working in the security field cannot be able to effectively execute his/her duties once he/she contracts these diseases. There have been documented instances when police officers and even military officers have been relieved of their duties if their health status becomes public knowledge.
The view is that a person infected by these diseases cannot keep up with the demands and rigorous duties that characterize the police and military service. Therefore, such individuals are relieved of their duties in order not to affect the lives of other officers while replacing them with new recruits. This exercise, however, represents a case of blatant discriminatory practice, which greatly impacts the war against HIV and other infectious diseases.
This discrimination, therefore, discourages other officers from revealing their health status for fear of losing their jobs. It presents a further risk when the disease will continue spreading without any steps being taken to intervene. The silence with which the issue of HIV and other infectious diseases is treated does not help in the fight against these diseases. It leads people to assume that the criminal justice system is not severely affected by these diseases when the reality is rather different (Kainja, 2002).
The discriminatory practice of dismissing HIV positive officers from the call of duty should be stopped and other ways of dealing with the situation have been encouraged to enhance the fight against such diseases.
The reality is that HIV and other infectious diseases pose a great threat to the health and security of individuals charged with the task of ensuring the safety of the country. The impact they have appears to be even more destructive than warfares between countries. It directly attacks the nerve center of the country, which is the criminal justice system and more precisely the security sector.
These diseases attack strategically with an almost well-calculated plan of attack. They overwhelm the health sector and social service by creating orphans and decreasing the number of health workers, which causes social and economic crises that threaten the stability of the country. When the country lacks sufficient security, its stability and security are severely threatened.
The Impact on Access to Justice and the Rule of Law
The criminal justice system plays a critical role in the process of the rule of law and access to justice by law. The rule of law signifies processes through the fundamental principles enshrined in the law that adheres to the dispensation of public duty and responsibility. While access to justice connotes the apt administration of law by being the regular and unending disposition on lawful matters or disputes to provide for every person his/her due. The importance of the criminal justice system for the achievement of these two crucial principles cannot be overlooked.
Essentially, it should be understood that without a properly functioning criminal justice system, there is no rule of law and access to justice. The role of police officers in achieving the rule of law is vital. When they are inhibited from performing their duties for any reason for that matter, the achievement of this goal becomes a rather difficult project (Dickson, 2001). Access to justice is particularly closely associated with the duties of the criminal justice system and highlights the critical importance of the members of the system in realizing access to justice for all.
Where someone has been wronged and is capable of going through the system of justice and receiving his or her due, that person will be considered to have access to justice. The police, prosecutors, judges, and correctional officers play a critical role in this process. Therefore, a depleted and weak criminal justice system greatly interferes with the process of accessing justice by the entire population.
When police officers become too sick to go to work or become engaged in taking care of a sick relative, citizens may not have a place to report crimes, thus being denied their constitutional right of accessing justice. When prosecutors, lawyers, and judges cannot appear in the court because they are receiving or providing treatment for their relatives, there is no access to justice. In turn, it breaks down the entire justice system bringing to a halt the ability of individuals to depend on this institution to receive their dues.
Therefore, HIV and other infectious diseases greatly infringe on the right of citizens to access justice and be subject to the rule of law. When officers of the system become affected or infected by this scourge, individuals may not be subject to due process in the country (Senak, 1996).
The Care for Patients of HIV and Other Infectious Diseases in Correctional Facilities
Correctional facilities in the United States record the highest number of incarcerations in the world with over a quarter of the population cycling through the system. These correctional facilities are commonly referred to as the breeding grounds for HIV and other infectious diseases. Studies showing the HIV prevalence in prisons and among correctional officers are limited, although they exist. These facilities represent one of the areas of the criminal justice system that is most severely affected by the HIV pandemic.
According to some studies, the rate of prevalence of the disease in the facilities exceeds that of the civilian population. This high rate of prevalence has been attributed to the nature and character of people that the prison system attracts. Correctional facilities generally attract individuals who are at a higher risk of contracting the disease.
They include people who inject drugs, sex workers, men having sex with men, and generally the poor and marginalized in the society. These individuals engage in risky behaviors in correctional facilities like having unprotected sex and drug abuse, which exposes them to a greater risk of contracting HIV, hepatitis, and sexually transmitted diseases.
Correctional officers working in these facilities face a greater risk of contracting these diseases when they may engage in sexual activities with prisoners or through other means of transmission. Officers in these facilities are charged with the responsibility of taking care of inmates. However, it has proved to be a tough task for officers when inmates suffer from HIV and other infectious diseases.
Correctional officers lack sufficient training and knowledge on how to take care of the individuals infected with these diseases. Even in unique situations when officers may be aware of what to do, the correctional system lacks a proper recording system that can help identify those who may be sick (Sloan, 1988).
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Correctional facilities do not have a well-elaborated system of recording and checking the status of every person incarcerated. In most correctional facilities, medical records of inmates are not kept; neither they are taken in order to be aware of whoever may need specialized care in the prison. It happens because there is no systematic testing and recording of HIV and other infectious diseases data in correctional facilities. Therefore, it severely impacts the provision of care for inmates in correctional facilities.
Similarly, the level of training for most correctional officers hinders their ability to provide care to inmates in these facilities. Officers simply have the duty of securing the premises and ensuring no escape. Thus, little attention is given to those who may have special medical conditions (Crockett, 1997). Officers lack the knowledge and necessary awareness of their responsibilities in the care, control, and custody of inmates living with HIV and other infectious diseases.
The care for correctional officers who are infected with these diseases is one that leaves little to be desired. Just like police officers, most correctional officers suffer in silence or suffer without even understanding what they may be suffering from. Correctional officers are exposed to and deal with individuals who are usually infected or become infected while staying in correctional facilities. They constantly deal with the real dangers of contracting these diseases in their day-to-day duties in the facilities.
Officers are often called upon to break up fights and protect the perceived victims of violence. They may get injured or even stabbed, thereby contracting these diseases in the process. Such a dangerous state of their jobs in addition to the lack of a well-developed system of testing and recording the health status of correctional officers makes officers be almost excluded from the care and attention given to other workers in the criminal justice department.
Correctional officers, therefore, lack sufficient care in the treatment of these diseases. The situation is worse when the disease may have been contracted from other inmates as the officer may not be able to reveal his status due to the fear of discrimination.
In addition to this, the criminal justice system does not have a system of checking up occasionally on the health status of its employees in order to provide sufficient medical care. The salary of these correctional officers is not sufficient to provide for medical bills and drugs that are necessary for the treatment of these diseases.
In conclusion, HIV and other infectious diseases can be extremely pervasive when they assault the essence of a nation-state in the same manner as the prolonged warfare through influencing secure families and communities, economic and political institutions, military and police forces. The underlying assumption that the HIV pandemic and other infectious diseases have no major impact on the criminal justice system and on the uniformed police has to be dispelled in the fastest way possible.
The observation made on HIV\AIDS by UNAIDS clearly indicates how the uniformed police and other security organs are affected by this scourge. The members of the criminal security system are equally highly vulnerable and necessary measures ought to be taken to ensure that they are protected and given sufficient medical care.