Federal judge approves settlement to end segregation of HIV-positive inmates

[JURIST] US District Judge Myron Thompson approved a settlement [opinion, PDF] Monday that will end segregation of HIV-positive inmates in Alabama prisons. The settlement came as a result of a 2012 decision [opinion, PDF] by Thompson, who found that separating HIV-positive inmates from other inmates was discriminatory [JURIST report] and lacked a medical basis. In the settlement, the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) [official website] agreed to end the segregation of HIV-positive inmates, including the practice in which incoming HIV-positive inmates are placed in an isolation cell. The agreement also provides HIV-positive inmates with broader employment opportunities around the facilities. To ease the transition, the ADOC has also agreed to train staff, inmates and medical providers about HIV before HIV-positive inmates are transferred to new facilities. Finally, Thomas approved $1.3 million in legal fees and expenses that must be paid by the ADOC. "This settlement is by no means perfect, and it will not provide the members of the class with everything that they could possibly desire," Thomas stated, concluding decades of litigation on this issue. "However, the settlement will nonetheless make a large difference for the members of the class."

Earlier this month the ADOC announced an end [JURIST report] to its policy of segregating HIV-positive inmates at Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women. As of August 1, eight HIV-positive female inmates were transferred [AL.com report] to the general prison population. The ACLU filed the lawsuit [complaint, PDF] against the ADOC in 2011. The ACLU and Human Rights Watch jointly produced a report [text, PDF], which concluded that the prisoners face fundamental discrimination which amounts to "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of prisoners," including "involuntary disclosure of HIV status to family, staff and other prisoners; loss of liberty by assignment to higher security prisons; denial of work, program and re-entry opportunities; and policies that promote, rather than combat, fear, prejudice and even violence against persons living with HIV." In 2009 Mississippi ended its HIV segregation policy, and South Carolina [JURIST report] became the last state to do so in July.

 

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