Published January, 2007

Justice for the Unprotected Against Sexually Transmitted Infections among the Confined and Exposed (JUSTICE) Act of 2007, H.R. 178, U.S. House of Representatives, 110th Congress, First Session

Sponsored by Representative Barbara Lee of California, the JUSTICE Act is an example of legislation that seeks to prevent the spread of HIV and other STIs in correctional facilities without violating basic human rights principles. Unlike other legislation that purportedly has a similar goal, such as the Stop AIDS in Prison Acts of 2007 and 2009, the JUSTICE Act does not advocate opt-out HIV testing of inmates and would require federal prisons to permit STI counseling and prevention education, as well as the distribution of condoms, for inmates. The Act also encourages states to allow the distribution of condoms in their correctional facilities. In order to develop the five-year strategy required by the Act for prevention of STIs in state and federal facilities, the Act requires the U.S. Attorney General to conduct a survey of state and federal facilities to gather information about prevention education, access to condoms, incidence of sexual violence, counseling and treatment, STI testing and test results, pre-release referral policy and referrals made, and any other action the facilities may have taken to prevent the spread of STIs.

Included in the legislative findings preceding the text of the Act are statistics about the rates of HIV and other STIs in correctional settings, the effectiveness of condoms to prevent HIV and STI transmission, and the number of states and cities that already allow the distribution of condoms in their facilities without any significant security infractions as a result. What the Act does not address, however, are the benefits of voluntary HIV and STI testing in correctional facilities, and the need to ensure informed consent for testing and confidentiality of test results. The language in this bill is certainly a good start, and is significantly more evolved than language included in other bills that advocate coercive testing policies for HIV and STIs in correctional facilities, but it would need additional language about protections for inmates in order to win the support of HIV/AIDS advocates who value the application of human rights in correctional settings.