Total Control: A Critical Analysis of Mandatory HIV Testing in U.S. Prisons

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Abstract

The aim of this paper is to explore the relationship between mandatory HIV testing and the institutional management of inmates in U.S. prisons. Mandatory HIV testing has been largely overlooked by the nursing community even though it has important human rights and ethical implications. Drawing on the work of Goffman (1990) on the inner workings of total institutions, the present article critically examines the deployment of mandatory HIV testing in U.S. prisons. To set the stage, we define mandatory HIV testing and describe the methods of HIV testing currently used in U.S. prison settings. Then, we provide a brief overview of the concept of total institution and the mortification process. Finally, we expand on the relationship between mandatory HIV testing and much larger institutional objectives of total control, total structuring, total isolation, and separation of inmates from society (as summarized by Farrington, 1992). And lastly, we provide a brief discussion on the implications of mandatory HIV testing (as a method of HIV testing) from a nursing perspective.

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