HIV Criminalization Is A Reflection of A Wider Social Class Gap in Communities

An in-depth look into the social context and political-economic structures within which the criminal justice process operates can shed more light on sentencing disparities. This disparity arises due to many other factors including what comprises the criminal justice system itself. There are numerous sections within the criminal justice system to make it operational. The very make up the criminal justice system is what leads to the different outcomes of sentencing. 

Scholars show that the criminal justice system is composed of or has to put so many interests in mind ranting from: policing and police powers, the prosecution process, the rights of suspects and victims, court processes, and appeals against conviction. Young and Sanders (2007), further show that the criminal justice system is a complex social institution which regulates potential, alleged and actual criminal activity within procedural limits supposed to protect people from wrongful treatment and wrongful conviction. This can be done through social cues such as ostracism, bias, stigma, discrimination, shaming, outing, naming or incarceration. Criminal justice, as a social regulatory set of institutions, operates within a society characterized by inequalities in wealth and power notes. The implication of this for the operations of criminal justice, is that power will be defined along hierarchies. 

Young and Sanders argue that “in a society in which power, status and wealth are unequally distributed along lines such as age, gender, race, and class, much criminal justice activity will compound wider social divisions. Enforcement of the criminal law reinforces a hierarchical social order which benefits some while disadvantaging others.” In a society already stigmatizing HIV, a person with a +ve HIV diagnosis convicted of voluntary HIV transmission is stripped of human dignity.


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