Opinion: Blood test

POSTED: 04/20/12 1:42 PM

Presented as house rules inmates at the Pointe Blanche prison are now apparently subjected to an obligatory blood test. We heard about this in court from one defendant, and the story was confirmed by attorneys. A prosecutor volunteered that these tests are designed to check for contagious diseases.

In the Netherlands the Public Prosecutor’s Office has the authority to oblige a suspect to cooperate with a blood test to establish the presence of HIV or contagious diseases like hepatitis B or C. These viruses could be transferred to a victim during a crime. If a suspect has infected a victim, this could cause serious physical harm and in some cases it is potentially life threatening.

In July 2010 Justice Minister Hirsch Ballin introduced this obligation. It is designed to protect the interests of crime-victims. Blood tests must be done as fast as possible to enable the preventive administering of medication to for instance HIV-infections.

While the Dutch measure has been widely published, the house rule in the Pointe Blanche prison comes across as a surprise to attorneys and inmates alike. The argument attorneys hear is that the test is done because the prison is filled to capacity.

We figure that the prison management wants to know whether it has HIV-infected inmates behind bars. The question is whether the prison is entitled to do these tests and furthermore whether inmates then are entitled to know the result. Another question is whether some inmates want to know such results.

It is a touchy feely subject that seems to have hit the prison population like a bat out of hell. This does not mean that testing as such is a bad idea – not at all. But one would expect that such a measure would be introduced with a proper information campaign both inside and outside of the prison.

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