Delaware's Shame: Prison AIDS Epidemic

When a Senator decides to run for President, like Joe Biden, it's only fair that we examine what he has done as Senator for those in his home state. Read this article on the AIDS epidemic that is rampant in Delaware prisons - it is the cause of death of one of every four inmates who die there. Where is Biden? Has he introduced federal legislation to help them?

There's another reason to read this article. This isn't only happening in Delaware, although for the past two years Delaware has the worst record in the country.

Bernard Coston was taken to prison in March 2002 on charges he stole a $50 jacket from an elderly woman. Coston was released from prison 18 months later on a slab. Dirt and feces covered his body. Insects had been gnawing on his corpse.

Diagnosed with AIDS before he went to prison, Coston spent his last four months in the infirmary of Wilmington's Gander Hill prison -- at least that's what is written on a state medical examiner's autopsy report. But Coston's sister, Victoria Trice, said she was told by a prison counselor that her brother wasn't in the infirmary, that he withered away, alone in a cell with no food or medical attention. He was too weak to bathe. "They are more humane to an animal than to my brother or anyone else who died in there," Trice said.

Some numbers:

Nearly one in four inmates who died in a Delaware prison since 2000 died of AIDS-related causes. In two of the past four years, Delaware's rate of prisoners dying of AIDS was the highest in the country.

AIDS is Delaware's secret death sentence -- an epidemic former prison medical staff say that the governor, key lawmakers and the correction commissioner are not motivated to address. "It's a disgrace," said Dr. David M. Cohen, an AIDS specialist with the Christiana Care HIV Wellness Clinic. "Because they're prisoners, the government has the right to take away their liberty. But they do not have the right to take away their health."

Joe Biden has a long history of introducing federal legislation as a fix-it for traditionally state problems, like the Violence Against Women's Act. Again, what has he done to help end the injustice and inhumanity occurring in the jails in his own state?

Also check out yesterday's article on the non-AIDS related but atrocious medical care in Delaware's prisons. This one might make you gag:

Charles Blake's is the worst. Blake pleaded guilty in November 2000 to possessing cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school. Three years later, while at the Delaware Correctional Center in Smyrna, Blake became sick. "He had an operation on a kidney. They put a stent in the kidney to hold the ureter open. He was released back to the prison," said Fennell, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware.

"He started calling his mom. He was in intense pain. He later passed the stent through his penis and died ... from that and other complications. They were treating him with an analgesic -- Motrin. They wouldn't send him back to the doctor. He lingered for weeks in the infirmary, before they sent him to the hospital." Blake died Sept. 7, 2003, at St. Francis Hospital in Wilmington. He was 36.

Here's the story of the unnecesary death of yet another inmate who died for lack of medical care in prison. Then there is this one that might make you throw up.

Maybe judges in Delaware should stop sentencing defendants to prison until Delaware cleans up its act and begins providing adequate health care and preventive measures. Maybe Delaware citizens should write their Senator and ask him to stop thinking about the White House and address their concerns instead.

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    Re: Delaware's Shame: Prison AIDS Epidemic (none / 0) (#1)
    by Lww on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:19 PM EST
    Anyone who defends themselves vociferously against charges that he's "not smart" shouldn't be president. Joe did it in 88'. As for the AIDS epidemic in prisons, what can be done? Inmates will have sex AND drugs and there's not much anyone can do about it, especially not Joe Biden. This looks like a hilariously transparent opening salvo against Biden, to keep the fellow travelers zeroed in on the Savior, Hillary. Nice try.

    Re: Delaware's Shame: Prison AIDS Epidemic (none / 0) (#2)
    by Johnny on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:24 PM EST
    1 in 4? Wrong wingers love that kind of statistic. Also, wrong wingers will also say stuff like: "It is his criminal tendency that killed him, not AIDS." And my favorite: "He probably deserved it, every inmate that dies of AIDS is an inmate that won't get released and immediately go on a raping and pillaging crusade in my hometown. My children are blessedly safe."

    AIDS Epidemic and Prisoner Care (none / 0) (#3)
    by Niffari on Tue Jul 29, 2008 at 08:26:04 AM EST
    Jeri, these ahouldn't be conflated. The AIDS epidemic in DE prisons is one issue. How many come into the prison with AIDS? How many become infected?

    I don't know the state of Delaware's particular problems, but I do know that prisons around the country all struggle to cope with young(er) prisoners with long-term, significant medical needs. There is also the issue of containment of the disease. What measures are in place? Also, do other lawmakers in DE (Biden  is just one) agree with his stance? Are there budgetary issues involved (as in California)?

    Bottom line: I am appalled by the reports of poor medical care and conditions, but blaming Biden frankly is major cop-out. California has terrible problems as well as do many other states. Everyone knows it but the challenge is HOW to fix it. And, let's be honest, prisoners are last on most people's lists of what to remedy.