"According to the Chinese law, criminals who are in serious need of medical treatment are allowed to serve their term on medical parole and cannot be imprisoned."Crime Disease and Punishment
By Liang Chen - Global Times
If it weren't for the security wall, you might think you were passing by a hospice or hospital in the countryside and you'd only be half wrong. The Jinzhong Prison located in Chadian township of Tianjin, 65 kilometers from Beijing is home to 500 inmates with infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and tuberculosis.
More than a third of the prisoners, including those sentenced in Beijing, have been infected with HIV/AIDS. It's the only prison near Beijing with medical facilities able to cope with the special needs of prisoners who have been stricken with communicable diseases.
In the middle of the prison is a special medical cell block where inmates with infectious diseases live, eat and receive medical treatment.
Nurses dispense drugs daily to inmates according to drug regimes prescribed by doctors. Prisoners who are well enough exercise in the courtyard twice a day. They are also excused from work duties that other prisoners are required to perform to help their institution cut costs.
Meanwhile, when police in Dongguan, Guangdong Province discovered that the two drug dealers they had arrested were HIV carriers they simply let them go last November.
The issue of how to deal with convicted criminals with communicable diseases has long been debated in China and research by the Global Times shows correction institutes have not yet found a unified way of dealing with inmates with infectious diseases.
Local police in Dongguan later explained they set the suspects free because some prisons in Guangdong won't accept convicts who have communicable diseases, as the cost of treating them is so high.
Similar cases have been reported around the country, especially in underdeveloped provinces. The police and criminals who are living with infectious diseases repeatedly play a "catch-and-release" game.
Li Yong, the spokesperson for the Gansu Provincial Public Security Department said local governments provide limited budgets to detention centers, which don't take into account extra cost of housing and treating inmates who are sick or contagious.
Li said most convicted criminals infected with HIV/AIDS will serve their terms, but suspects with other communicable diseases are not held for lack of money.
"The risk of infection faced by police when catching criminals and the difficulties the prisons and detention centers have in holding them have caused the catch-and-release games," Mian Liping, a campaign coordinator with World AIDS Campaign, told the Global Times.
Mian says society has a duty to treat people with serious illnesses humanely. "The local and central governments should at least provide special facilities in jails for those who are infected with communicable diseases," she said, adding that treating and curing prisoners of their diseases will also help stop them from spreadings.
Segregation not the answer
Mian she doesn't think segregating sick prisoners in separate prisons is the right answer. She says it amounts to discrimination and causes greater stigma that ex-cons have to deal with after they are released. "People will know they are from the prison for those with infectious diseases."
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