Report

HIV Criminalization in Georgia: Length of Incarceration and Fiscal Implications

June 2021

Using data from the Georgia Department of Corrections, this update to our 2018 report analyzes enforcement of HIV-related crimes in Georgia between 1999 and 2020. It focuses on prison incarcerations and the total cost of incarceration to the state for HIV-related offenses.

Highlights
HIV criminal laws criminalize otherwise legal conduct or increase penalties for illegal conduct based upon a person's HIV-positive status.
A greater number of people have been impacted by Georgia’s HIV crimes than previously known.
Nearly three-quarters of those incarcerated for HIV crimes in Georgia were men.
Data Points
133
people have been incarcerated for HIV crimes in Georgia
97%
of those incarcerated were the result of Georgia’s reckless conduct crime law
72%
of those incarcerated under Georgia’s HIV crime laws have been men
8.3
was the average years sentenced for HIV crimes in Georgia
3.2
average years served for HIV crimes
$23,577.22
average annual incarceration cost per person
$9M
total cost to the state of incarcerating people for HIV crimes
Report

Executive Summary

The Williams Institute previously examined the enforcement of HIV criminal laws in Georgia in January 2018.1 In that report, which analyzed data through the third quarter of 2017, we identified 571 people who had been people arrested and 74 people who had been convicted of HIV-related offenses.2 In this update we provide additional details on those who have been incarcerated in Georgia prisons for HIV-related crimes with new data through calendar year 2020. Those incarcerated for HIV crimes in Georgia are a subset of those convicted of HIV crimes. 

Our new analysis reveals that even more people have been impacted by Georgia’s HIV crimes than previously known, that enforcement of these laws has not decreased in recent years, and that the cost to Georgia of incarceration alone for these laws adds up to over $9 million in the last two decades. 

Key Findings

  • From July 1999 to the end of 2020, between 114 and 125 people were incarcerated in Georgia prisons for HIV-related crimes. We also have evidence that eight people were incarcerated for HIV-related crimes before 1999 based on discharge data, bringing our estimate for the total number of people incarcerated in Georgia state prisons to between 122 and 133. 
  • All almost all of those incarcerated, over 97%, were the result of Georgia’s reckless conduct crime law. Only three were the result of Georgia’s criminal statute focused on exposure of law enforcement officers to HIV or hepatitis. 
  • There has not been a reduction in the enforcement of Georgia’s HIV crime laws in recent years. 2017, 2018, and 2019, all saw above-average prison admissions; only twice in two decades was the number of admissions higher than in those years. 
  • Over 72% of those incarcerated under Georgia’s HIV crime laws have been men. This is consistent with our 2018 report which found that 73% of those arrested for HIV crimes in Georgia were men. 
  • The average sentence length for HIV crimes in Georgia was 8.3 years at time of admission to prison. 
  • On average, those incarcerated actually served 3.2 years, or 38.7% of their original sentence. 
  • Of those discharged, about half—50.5%—were released on parole. 

Using this updated incarceration data, we estimate the total cost of incarceration for HIV-related offenses over the past two decades. We find that: 

  • The average annual cost-per-person incarcerated during this period was $23,577.22 when adjusted for inflation.
  • The total cost to the state of Georgia of incarcerating people for HIV crimes between 1999 and 2020 was between $8.7 and $9.5 million. This estimate does not include costs related to HIV crimes for policing, prosecuting, probation, parole, etc.
  • As a more conservative measure for the cost of incarceration, we estimate the marginal cost of incarceration for HIV crimes in Georgia for the same period to be between $1.04 and $1.14 million. 

Combining our 2018 analysis with this new data we have now documented that between 122 and 133 people have been incarcerated for an HIV crime since 1988. Our 2018 report estimated that 74 people had been convicted. This is a 61% to 76% increase in the number of people convicted over the previous estimate. Much of the difference (26 cases) is the result of new data from 2017 to the present.

Download the report

HIV Criminalization in Georgia: Length of Incarceration and Fiscal Implications

Amira Hasenbush, The Williams Institute, University of California Los Angeles School of Law, HIV Criminalization In Georgia: Penal Implications For People Living With HIV/AIDS (2018), (https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/ uploads/HIV-Criminalization-GA-Jan-2018.pdf). 

2 Id., pg. 14