June 23, 2011 1:23 pm

HIV-positive man detained at County jail denied essential medical care

CHICAGO – A Chicago man who is HIV-positive was detained for seven days last year in the Bureau County Jail and denied access the prescribed medications to manage his condition. The facts of this matter are laid out in a letter that the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois sent this week to Bureau County Sheriff John Thompson, asking the Sheriff to provide adequate training and services to insure that the situation is not replicated in the future. The letter was sent on behalf of Arick Buckles, who was detained in the Bureau County facility from September 29 through October 6 of 2010. Despite his repeated requests to see a doctor and get access to his medications, Mr. Buckles received no medication during his seven day detention.

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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. A friend, a minister in Chicago, and Mr. Buckles’ partner called the jail and spoke to officials asking for him to be provided HIV medications. An official from an HIV/AIDS program in Chicago faxed the Jail a list of prescriptions as well as the name of Mr. Buckles’ doctor and his office phone number.

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.”

“Bureau County has an obligation under the Constitution to provide the medical care necessary for all persons they detain,” said John Knight, Director of the ACLU of Illinois Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project. “For Arick, his HIV medications were not optional and should not have been debated on the basis of cost to the County.” “And the human costs of putting Arick’s life at risk and putting him through the agony of wondering if he’ll ever get treatment far outweigh the purchase price of Arick’s HIV medication.”

After seven days, Mr. Buckles was released and given a court date for the future. When he was being released, he found that his clothes and nail clippers were placed in plastic bags, kept separate from the belongings of other detainees with “HIV positive” written on all the bags. The bags were kept in a place where other staff and detainees clearly could see the markings. The ACLU of Illinois notes that this treatment raises serious questions about Bureau County’s understanding of HIV and how it is transmitted and its recognition of its responsibility to protect the medical privacy of detainees.

“I told the staff each day about my HIV status and the need for my medication,” said Mr. Buckles. “The lack of action caused me enormous anxiety and concern. I hope this never happens to another detainee in Bureau County or anywhere across Illinois.”

Because of other complaints from counties in Illinois, the ACLU of Illinois also wrote to the Illinois Department of Corrections, who is responsible for establish operations’ policies for county and municipal jails in the state, urging the IDOC to enhance policies and training to ensure that HIV-positive detainees receive the life-saving medications they require.

“We hope that Bureau County will correct its policies and train staff so that the situation faced by Arick is not repeated,” added Knight. “And, we hope the State will put new energy into working with county and municipal jails to create policies and procedures that address this problem on a systemic basis.”