Bil Browning

Chicago Man Denied HIV Meds in Jail

Filed By Bil Browning | June 23, 2011 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: ACLU, Arick Buckles, Bureau County Jail, Chicago, HIV pill regimen, HIV/AIDS care

Arick Buckles, an HIV+ Chicago man, was arrested and detained in the Bureau County Jail late last year, but even though he repeatedly told officers he needed medication to manage his illness, Thumbnail image for HIV medsthe jail decided that they were too expensive to provide. After he was released, he was handed his clothing wrapped in big plastic bags marked "HIV Positive;" the bags were separated from other inmate belongings and were visible to both staff and other detainees. The ACLU has threatened a lawsuit according to a press release.

Mr. Buckles, who works in Chicago as an HIV/AIDS counselor, was detained by Bureau County officials on an outstanding warrant for a non-violent crime. He was taken into custody as he was clearing up another outstanding matter in DuPage County - part of a process he undertook to clean up his life and take responsibility for past criminal activity. When he was processed into the Bureau County Jail, Mr. Buckles notified staff, including a nurse, that he was HIV-positive and needed medication for his treatment. He explained in detail that these medications were life-saving and that it was extremely harmful to interrupt his HIV treatment. He repeated this request each day...

According to records obtained by the ACLU of Illinois, it appears that Bureau County officials were motivated not by concerns over Mr. Buckles' health, but by cost concerns. The Jail's Medical Progress Notes describe the medications that Mr. Buckles needs as "costly" and "only issued monthly." The staff also said as part of the medical plan that they would "(n)otify states attorney of Bureau County . . .update him with this medical info that would be very costly for the Bureau County Sheriff's Office."

What the hell is this? 1987 or 2011?

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.

I don't know the severity of Mr. Buckles's "past criminal activity" ... but if this man voluntarily surrendered himself to the Sheriff officers, he could have been placed on electronic surveillance or house arrest and allowed to access the meds he already has. Or, arrangements could have been made for him to receive the doses from his own supply of meds by some other arrangement.

To me, their excuse of "these meds are too costly" does not hold water even if it is true. The meds were already being supplied via some other channel(s).

The whole situation raises serious questions about how much of this is expense-avoiding, and how much of this is a subtext of the attitude, which can be so prevalent in law enforcement circles, "HIV-positive people do not deserve treatment and deserve to die."

No one deserves that type of treatment. If Mr. Buckles had diabetes or some other condition other than HIV infection, the jail would be making sure he had his medication. And the whole "cost-cutting" excuse had more bologna than an Oscar Meyer plant. Law enforcement simply couldn't have cared less about his condition or his dignity for that matter.

So, the meds were "costly" ... denying the meds could have resulted in the virus becoming resistant to the meds. Thus, incurring further cost to the patient/prisoner via new medicines and doctor visits for an illness that, I assume, was under control.

How does this not fit under "cruel and unusual punishment"?

It clearly is. These guards should be put where they can't hurt anyone anymore... which, ironically, is out of prison.

it is at times like this i am embarrassed to admit that i live in Illinois.

Doesn't it behoove any one of us to do everything we can to be law abiding? Every adult knows their options and when they ARE breaking the law. Seems to me, one can assume that jail is going to be a place where your needs, whether crucial or not, aren't going to be met with any charity or concern.
Finding out AFTER the fact, that jail administrators will do something to screw around with you, is also a matter of being VERY naive about what to expect in jail.
Jail administrators aren't THAT obligated to be so concerned, although we'd like to think they would be if they are decent and fair people.
But when it comes down to it, people always have a choice regarding risking the penal system. And THEY know that. If you're in jail, even for what YOU think are non violent, or crimes that aren't so serious, making that call, isn't up to the law breaker.

I might seem harsh here, but sometimes omissions of why someone is in jail in the first place will make me less sympathetic to this man's situation.

Perhaps the jail admin ARE less sympathetic to those with HIV, than they are to inmates with diabetes, or lung cancer. This certainly seems to be the case here.
Which is another essential disincentive to doing anything that will run you afoul of the law. You never are going to know how you and your health issues are going to be responded to, so the risks of going to jail aren't worth it.

"I might seem harsh here, but sometimes omissions of why someone is in jail in the first place will make me less sympathetic to this man's situation."

I don't see why either his specific crime, or your particular level of sympathy really matters regarding the issue. The issue being, that he was denied medical treatment while essentially a ward of the state. Jailors are charged not only with maintaining order and ensuring justice is served, they are, (just as importantly) charged with the protection of those in the system. Failure to provide access to medication after being notified of the need, is a clear violation of one of the only inherent rights a prisoner has... the right to maintain their current level of health (seriously, people on death row get their heart meds).

Should people expect to be treated like crap in jail? Yup, LGBTQ people even more so. Should we excuse the system for ignoring one of the most basic jobs they are in place to perform? Should we use some man's potential avoidable health crisis as a cautionary tail with heaps of blame and unfounded judgement piled on?