Monday, November 08, 2004

Mandatory testing for Texas inmates

Representative Yvonne Davis (D-Dallas-District 111) has pre-filed HB 43, "relating to requiring the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to conduct a mandatory human immunodeficiency virus test on certain inmates and jail felons." Current law allows for this testing (using "may test"), but Davis bill requires that the institutional division of TDCJ "must test" an inmate who is eligible for release prior to release. In addition, the bill mandates that the state jail division "shall test" in the same manner and subject to the same conditions as apply to the institutional division.

Representative Norma Chavez (D-El Paso-District 76) filed a similar bill in the 77th legislative session (2001). Chavez' bill (HB 2583) required education and testing for both Hepatitis C and HIV, but restricted the requirement to inmates aged 22 or over and who had been sentenced for a term of at least two years. Chavez' bill was not related to release from incarceration. Chavez' bill was scheduled for a hearing but was pulled from the schedule at the last minute. The high fiscal note was a likely problem as well as the fact that Chavez' staff was unaware that HIV testing was not already mandatory in the prison system.

The Network is now reviewing Davis' bill and will contact her office for more background information.

Note that Chavez' bill was referred to the House Corrections Committee (not Public Health). It's a fair bet that Davis' bill will also be referred to that committee.

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