Jim Belling the Bulls

John Young jya at pipeline.com
Wed Aug 20 07:57:54 PDT 1997

August 20, 1997

R.I. Passes Body Fluid Felony Law

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- Inmates on the East Coast refer to it as
``serving'' a prison guard, while in the West it's called ``gassing.'' 

Guards know it simply as being splashed or smeared with urine or feces. 

``It's a badge of honor to serve an officer,'' said Richard Loud, president
of the Rhode Island Brotherhood of Correctional Officers. ``When an officer
gets served, the other inmates all cheer. They think it's a big joke.'' 

Rhode Island is among the states that have adopted laws to crack down on the
activity. A bill signed July 1 by Gov. Lincoln Almond makes throwing bodily
fluids or wastes a felony punishable by up to five more years behind bars
and a $5,000 fine. 

New York adopted a similar law last year, although, unlike the one in Rhode
Island, it didn't include saliva. 

``I think Rhode Island probably has one of the best laws in the country,''
said Stephen Chand, director of federal affairs for the Law Enforcement
Alliance of America. 

Rep. Gerald Solomon, R-N.Y., has sponsored federal legislation requiring
that inmates be tested for the AIDS virus if their bodily fluid or waste
touches a guard. 

Two such assaults occur a month at Rhode Island's state prison, Loud said

Some believe the punishment is excessive. 

``We think it is a harsh reaction to a non-issue,'' said Steve Brown,
executive director of the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties
Union. ``I think in most cases this will involve spitting. Inmates shouldn't
be spitting on guards, but certainly it doesn't merit a five-year prison

The act has been taking place for years in prisons, but such bills are
gaining strength because of the fear of AIDS. 

``The scientific and medical evidence is abundantly clear that it is
virtually impossible to get infected with the HIV virus through that sort of
conduct,'' Brown said. 

Prisons already can punish inmates by placing them in solitary confinement
or revoking other privileges, or can try them for misdemeanor assault, Brown
said. But authorities have had trouble prosecuting inmates under the
misdemeanor assault law, said Rep. Joseph McNamara, D-Warwick, the bill's

``It's difficult to prove intent to do harm,'' McNamara said. 

However, he said, the fact that different slang terms exist for the act in
various parts of the country show how much a part of prison culture it is. 

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