Rights group urges South Carolina to stop segregating HIV-positive prisoners

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Friday urged the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) [official website] to stop segregating HIV-positive inmates [press release]. HRW claims the policy promotes stigma and discrimination because HIV-positive prisoners are housed in a separate maximum security facility, regardless of their sentence, and forced to serve longer sentences because they are excluded from many work programs and services that enable other inmates to leave early. On Tuesday, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] sent a letter [text, PDF] to the SCDC revealing that the DOJ Civil Rights Division is investigating the SCDC after numerous complaints about the segregation policy. The DOJ alleges that segregating HIV-inmates is a violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) [text] because HIV-positive prisoners are held in separate housing and excluded from many of the programs, services and activities provided by the SCDC. The DOJ claims HIV-positive inmates also receive inadequate medical and mental health care. The letter says the matter will be resolved if several changes are made by the SCDC, including integrating the HIV-positive prisoners and protecting their privacy by not disclosing their disease.

Only two states, Alabama [JURIST report] and South Carolina, still have a policy of discriminating HIV-positive prisoners. In April, HRW and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] jointly produced a report [text, PDF] concluding that the prisoners face fundamental discrimination, which amounts to "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of prisoners." In March, Mississippi ended [AP report] its segregation program, after extending [ACLU press release] educational and vocational training to HIV-positive inmates in 2001. In 1990, the ACLU, on behalf of HIV-positive prisoners, sued to force Mississippi to provide proper medical care. HRW has also accused the federal Department of Homeland Security [official website] of providing inadequate medical care [JURIST report] to HIV-positive immigration detainees.

 

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