August 24, 1997
Parolee Says He Got AIDS in Jail
EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (AP) -- When Michael Blucker went to prison for burglary and auto theft in 1992, he wasn't expecting a death sentence.
A federal lawsuit filed by the 28-year-old parolee says that's what he got when he contracted the AIDS virus during repeated rapes in prison. The case goes to trial Monday.
Blucker, who is seeking unspecified damages, contends a prison gang forced him into sexual slavery and authorities did nothing to help him.
He was escorted from cell to cell, where he was forced to have sex in exchange for valuables -- sometimes just a pack of cigarettes -- that later went to a prison gang leader, the lawsuit says.
Blucker, who now lives with his wife in suburban Chicago, was sentenced to prison in 1992.
He says he repeatedly told prison officials at the Menard Correctional Center in Chester of the alleged rapes, to no avail. And he argues the state policy allowing HIV-positive inmates to live in the general population put him at risk.
While declining to give specifics, Corrections spokesman Nic Howell said prison officials doubt Blucker's rape story and think he contracted the virus during consensual sex -- perhaps before he entered prison. They also say prison workers educate inmates on the threat of HIV.
Blucker entered Menard on May 5, 1993. The lawsuit said Blucker's HIV test at Menard on June 10, 1993, was negative but another taken on March 29, 1994, was positive.
There are no widely accepted estimates on the number of rapes in prison, but Blucker's supporters say it is far higher than prison officials acknowledge.
``We're not asking coddling,'' said Don Collins, president of the Los Angeles-based advocacy group Stop Prisoner Rape. ``We're asking keep him safe.''
Jenni Gainsborough, a spokeswoman for the National Prison Project run by the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington, said she is unaware of any other case in which an inmate tried to prove he contracted HIV in prison.
State Rep. Cal Skinner has tried unsuccessfully to pass legislation requiring segregation of HIV-positive inmates and greater protection for victims of prison sex assault.
``He is not a winner,'' Skinner said of Blucker. ``But there's nothing he has done that merits a death sentence, and yet that's what he's received.''