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Arkansas Prison Scandals Regarding Contaminated Blood


A number of scandals occurred around the infamous Cummins State Prison Farm in Arkansas in 1967-1969 and 1982-1983; the latter scandal was related to the blood gathered from the local prisoners. In this paper, we will discuss a number of issues connected to the blood scandal, as well as to the contemporary American victim compensation system.

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The Blood Scandal and its Media Coverage

The prisoners of the Cummins Farm were allowed to sell their blood since 1964. In the process of gathering the blood, numerous infringements were committed; as a result, blood contaminated with HIV and hepatitis was sold to blood brokers who shipped it to Canada, Asia, and Europe. The blood sales were initially managed by a group of local physicians, later – by Health Management Associates Inc. (HMA) that signed a contract with the state. Only in 1982-1983 due to a number of investigations did pharmaceutical companies learn that they were buying blood gathered from prisoners (Lancaster, 2015).

The story never achieved national coverage. However, it can be argued that the story was of national interest; the blood was shipped to a number of foreign countries, thus making the U.S. a source of contaminated blood, and could have resulted in a major international scandal (not to mention the infected victims). On the other hand, the blood could not have been sold within the U.S. (Farah, 1998), which greatly reduced the interest of Americans in the story.

The Role of Bill Clinton in the Scandal’s Concealment

An important reason for the diminished media coverage of the story was the fact that the governor Bill Clinton took effort to conceal it. As it was mentioned, HMA had a contract with the state; HMA’s president was Clinton’s friend and political ally. It is also probable that Bill Clinton obtained financial benefits from the scheme of blood sales (Farah, 1998). It is stated that 4,000 boxes of state documents, including Clinton’s governor papers, were hidden in order to conceal the crime (Farah, 2005, para. 28).

Lack of Scrutiny of Gathered Blood

Noteworthy, the history of the prisoner’s abuse that was exposed by Tom Murton should have become a reason for additional inspection of the blood gathered from prisoners. The investigation should have been initiated by the state authorities, such as the Food and Drug Administration; however, the latter only acted in 1982-1983 (Lancaster, 2015).

Today’s Legislation on Victim Compensation

The currently existing legislation about compensation for victims of crime in the U.S. provides the victims of violent crime, such as “assault, homicide, rape, and, in some states, burglary,” with monetary compensation, even if the offender has not been found (The National Center, 2003, para. 1, 7). The money comes from the Crime Victims Fund that obtains it from convicted federal offenders (Office for Victims of Crime, n.d.). Clearly, victims of crime should gain compensation for their losses; it is justified that victims of most severe, violent crimes should be compensated first. However, there should also exist compensation for victims of non-violent crime who e.g. suffered heavy damage to their health, as was the case with those infected through the contaminated blood. It appears fair that the compensation for victims is funded by convicted federal offenders.


To sum up, the blood scandal was of national interest due to the blood’s shipping to other countries and the consequences of it (both for the infected people and for the U.S. that was the source of contaminated blood); however, the blood did not threaten the American citizens directly. Bill Clinton played an important role in concealing the crime, covering his political allies and possibly gaining money. The investigation of the blood was only initiated in 1982-1983. Finally, today’s American legislation on crime victim compensation appears rather fair.

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Farah, J. (1998). Clinton’s Arkansas blood scandal. Web.

Farah, J. (2005). Clinton blood scandal exposed in new film. Web.

Lancaster, G. (2015). Arkansas prison blood scandal. Web.

Office for Victims of Crime. (n.d.). About OVC: Crime Victims Fund. Web.

The National Center for Victims of Crime. (2003). Crime victim compensation. Web.

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