Enacted: Jan 2000
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) has emerged as significant concern and challenge to correctional administrators. As the number of victims stricken with this virus continues to multiply, probation and parole personnel must be aware of the implications of various actions and non-actions, confidentiality issues, and medical facts. Policies and procedures governing all facets of AIDS prevention and education must reflect best current medical and ethical practices.
The American Probation and Parole Association supports the findings and recommendations of the National Institute of Justice in "AIDS and the Law Enforcement Officer" and "AIDS in Correctional Facilities." While neither of these publications specifically addresses the unique issues faced by probation and parole officers, the detailed analysis assesses many of the major areas of concern expressed by staff.
Education of all citizens about the dangers and means of transmission of the AIDS virus is a primary social objective. Probationers and parolees convicted of drug-related offenses represent a high-risk group which should be targeted for intensive educational efforts, despite refractory attitudes frequently encountered among this population. Other offenders should also be provided with information about preventive measures and testing options.
Disclosure of offender medical information presents difficult ethical and professional dilemmas. As a general rule, such information is confidential. When staff become aware that a specific offender is HIV-positive, disclosure to other parties without the subject's informed consent is a violation of his/her right to privacy. In special cases where there is evidence suggesting ongoing high-risk behavior that might result in the infection of a third party, the right to privacy may be outweighed by a duty to warn possible victims. In such cases, staff should be encouraged to seek supervisory and legal assistance on a case-by-case basis.
In the daily performance of their duties, probation and parole officers are rarely exposed to situations where viral transmission is possible. The only recognized means of contracting the AIDS virus is through blood-to-blood contact or semen-to-blood contact. Neither is likely to occur in the context of the probation/parole officer's job. Common hygienic procedures and recognition of high-risk behaviors and situations should be sufficient to prevent exposure. Officers may wish to carry rubber or surgical protective wear, but such precautions should not be mandatory. The AIDS virus is not easily transmitted, and there is little evidence that professionals employed in the health or law enforcement fields are at risk of contracting it, if standard procedures are followed.
All jurisdictions should develop policies and procedures, which stress regular training, utilizing the latest medical research, video, and live presentations, and the opportunity for staff to discuss issues of concern.