Last modified: Wednesday, October 30, 2002
Many new AIDS laws are misguided, says criminal justice professor
Many of the criminal laws now being enacted across the nation to deal with AIDS are being approved for the wrong reasons, according to Stephanie Kane, associate professor in criminal justice at Indiana University Bloomington and an expert on AIDS and the criminal justice system.
"The biggest problem is that the people who write the laws are doing this for political reasons. Some of the changes are for the emotional well-being of law enforcement," Kane said.
Kane, whose expertise encompasses social anthropology and criminal justice, cited the example of a person with AIDS biting a police officer, which is now a felony in Indiana. "There already are laws that address the issue of battery on a police officer, so why do we need this one?" she asked. Kane added that research has yet to uncover an incident of a police officer or anyone else becoming infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, after being bitten by someone with the disease.
There is a huge gap between knowledge and action when it comes to AIDS and the public, she said. "Kids today understand the dangers of AIDS, but many fail to transform this knowledge into preventive action," she said. "For example, many people in Indiana seem to feel protected from big city ills, but studies show that rural Indiana jail inmates have injected drugs at the same rate as those incarcerated in state prisons across the country." The U.S. Department of Justice has estimated that 25 percent of state prison inmates nationwide have a history of injecting drugs, she added.
Kane teaches classes on AIDS and law enforcement on a regular basis, and she has published journal articles on AIDS and criminal justice. In 1998, she published a book titled AIDS Alibis: Sex, Drugs and Crime in the Americas, which deals with AIDS interventions in Chicago and other areas.