Advantages/Disadvantages to Disclosing Your Status when Arrested
When a person is arrested, if s/he informs the authorities that s/he has an infectious disease such as tuberculosis or an active HIV-related infection, s/he is separated and will not be placed in a cell with other arrested people. If the defendant is physically handicapped, s/he will not be placed in a a cell with other arrested people
Advantages/Disadvantages to Disclosing Your Status: If you are on HIV meds, the only way that you are going to be able continue your doses is if you notify officers when you get to the Police Precinct or Central Booking. As the process can take some time, you should do this as soon as possible. Remember that the arrest to arraignment process can take up to 24 hours, which is several potentially missed doses of medication, so you should seriously consider speaking up so as to stay on your medication regimen. The disadvantages of disclosing your status include the possibility of harassment from officers or other inmates if the officers disclose the information.
At the precinct or Central Booking: If you have your meds in your possession they will be taken from you and "vouchered." An officer will fill out a voucher form, and it will include contact information for your doctor and pharmacy. You should be asked if you need to take your meds at the precinct or Central Booking, but know whether or not they ask you should let them know. If you ask to take your meds, the police will call EMS. An EMT will do an assessment and transport you (and the voucher form if you filled it out) to a hospital (usually the closest HHC emergency room) for evaluation by a doctor. You will not be permitted to take the meds that you had with you. If you can get in touch with friends or family who can bring medical information (doctor and pharmacy) to the precinct or Central Booking, they should do so. It is not a good idea for them to bring meds at this point.
At the hospital: A doctor will assess your condition. He or she might contact your doctor, or might just go ahead and write a prescription for the meds that you say you are taking. Either way, the doctor should write you a prescription for enough meds to last you through to the end of the arraignment process (24 hours). The prescription will be filled at the hospital pharmacy. If the hospital pharmacy does not have the meds, then the contact information on the voucher form will be used to contact your pharmacy. At this point, you might have to speak up and push to have someone make the call, either the doctor, the EMT, a social worker, a family member, or whomever you can get.
Potential Problems: At the precinct or Central Booking, the officers might discourage you from going to the hospital. They might tell you that it will delay the arraignment process and you will be there "for days". This is not true. Going to the hospital to get your essential medications will not delay the process or keep you in the system any longer. The arrest to arraignment time of 24 hours is the same, and it is very important that anyone on medications not miss doses.
Advocacy: If you have a problem in New York City, you or a family member can call the Legal Aid Society, Special Litigation Unit at 212-577-3419. You can also call the AIDS/HIV Hotline for Prisoners at 718-378-7022. The Hotline operates Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 3-8 PM and accepts collect phone calls
written by: Steven Nesselroth FIRST DRAFT 3/2000
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