Header, the Administration of the Honorable Lincoln C. Almond
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August 7, 1996


In accordance with the provisions of R.I. Gen. Laws § 43-1-4, I am transmitting herewith, with my disapproval, 96-H-8046, Substitute A, "An Act Relating to the Department of Corrections."

This legislation would require annual testing of inmates committed to the Adult Correctional Institutions (the "ACI"), both those already sentenced and those awaiting trial, for Human Immunodeficiency Virus ("HIV"). Further, the legislation would require correctional staff to be notified immediately of the identity of those testing positive for HIV or Hepatitis B Virus ("HBV").

I vetoed a nearly identical bill last year and I remain opposed to such legislation both on health policy and constitutional grounds. The Department of Health (DOH) opposes this bill because the disclosure requirement is not medically necessary and the provisions of the bill are inconsistent with acceptable standards of health policy, as it relates to HIV testing. Moreover, the disclosure of inmate test results will not prevent transmission of this virus to inmates or to correctional staff. On the contrary, inmates with the greatest potential to infect others with HIV may actually test negative in the early stages of the disease. Such negative test results can give rise to a false sense of security and less vigilant application of common sense precautions against transmission at a time when such precautions are most needed.

DOC currently employs an infectious disease treatment team which provides state-of-the-art testing and treatment services for inmates. DOC also provides both pre-service and in-service training to all correctional staff on the issues of infectious diseases including HIV and HBV. Moreover, DOC has initiated a HBV vaccination program for all staff as recommended by OSHA. In short, the State of Rhode Island already has a model program in place which not only provides educational and preventive programs for correctional staff, but also provides treatment for inmates infected with these diseases. Universal precautions where every inmate is assumed by staff to be infected with either HIV or HBV are a part of this program and are currently in place at the ACI.

The application of such universal precautions are far more likely to prevent the transmission of this virus than the disclosure of an inmate's test results.

In addition to the health policy concerns expressed above, I have serious reservations about a bill which may infringe upon the health care confidentiality rights of persons not yet convicted of any crime. The testing and disclosure requirements contained in this Act apply equally to convicted criminals and to those who are merely awaiting trial, to whom the presumption of innocence still attaches. As such, these mandates may be constitutionally suspect.

For the foregoing reasons, I disapprove of this legislation and respectfully urge your support of this veto.


Lincoln Almond