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HRW: Louisiana prisons not providing basic HIV services

[JURIST] Louisiana jails are failing to provide [press release] basic HIV services to inmates, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] said in a report [text] Tuesday. HRW said this failure occurs through "limited, haphazard, and in many cases, non-existent" services provided to inmates. Louisiana's two largest cities, Baton Rouge and New Orleans, lead the nation in new HIV infections every year, and Louisiana also one of the highest rates of incarceration. According to the report, the failure to treat HIV adequately in jails and to connect people leaving jail with external services could greatly harm society in many ways, from the health and safety implications to social effects. The study shows that jail time can also lead to the problem, not just inadequately address it.

Going to jail tends to make people poorer, less stably housed, and more likely to be jailed again—all factors known to play a part in HIV prevention and outcomes. Even brief incarcerations are likely to interfere with people's access to, or use of, HIV medications and reduce the chances of achieving viral suppression, the pinnacle of good health for someone living with HIV.
The report closes by addressing Louisiana's criminal justice reforms thus far, but acknowledges that there is still much progress to be made.

As the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] calls for reform in state courts, the treatment of prisoners and prison reform [JURIST podcast] have been matters of ongoing concern in the US. Earlier this month two groups in Ohio released a report [JURIST report] detailing recommendations for criminal justice reform in their state. Also earlier this month the DOJ urged state court systems [JURIST report] to stop using procedural routines and hefty fines to profit off poor defendants [press release]. Last month the Supreme Court of California ruled [JURIST report] that Governor Jerry Brown can put his plan to ease prison overcrowding on the ballot this November. In January the US Supreme Court ruled that a landmark decision banning mandatory sentences of life without parole for juveniles should apply retroactively [JURIST report]. In August the DOJ reached a settlement [JURIST report] with Los Angeles prisons on mentally ill inmate care. In May Human Rights Watch released [JURIST report] a report stating that mentally disabled prisoners experience "unnecessary, excessive, and even malicious force" at the hands of prison staff across the US. A federal court in February 2015 approved [JURIST report] a settlement agreement between the Arizona Department of Corrections and the American Civil Liberties Union in a class action lawsuit over the health care system within Arizona prisons. Also in February 2015 rights group Equal Justice Under Law filed suit [JURIST report] against the cities of Ferguson and Jennings, Missouri, for their practice of jailing citizens who fail to pay debts owed to the city for minor offenses and traffic tickets.

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