Mississippi Prisons Evaluate Vocational, Rehabilitation Programs for HIV-Positive InmatesMississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Robert Johnson has formed a task force designed to review the possibility of implementing vocational and educational programs for prisoners with HIV and AIDS, the Tupelo Daily Journal reports (Tupelo Daily Journal, 1/31). Composed of corrections officials and prison-rights advocates, the task force will evaluate whether the state should integrate HIV-positive inmates into vocational, educational and rehabilitation programs with "mainstream" prisoners and whether such integration is financially feasible (AP/Charleston Post and Courier, 1/31). The panel will research the issue and will present the corrections department with a plan that includes details of programs, including success rates, that will "enhance" HIV-positive inmates' rehabilitative, vocational and educational skills. The group will also outline information regarding the equipment, supplies and human resources needed to execute the programs and will propose a time frame for when these programs will be implemented (Tupelo Daily Journal, 1/31). The committee will present its final recommendations to Johnson on March 30.
Some corrections officials and inmates have opposed the integration of HIV-positive inmates into programs offered to other prisoners, "worry[ing]" that HIV will spread among inmates more rapidly since "cuts and bruises are not uncommon" in prison. Prison-rights advocates, however, say that the risk of other prisoners contracting HIV "is minimal" because HIV-positive inmates would be monitored all day and then returned to their separate sleeping area at night. Only three states -- Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina -- prohibit HIV-positive inmates from "mixing" with other inmates (AP/Charleston Post and Courier, 1/31). There are currently 218 HIV-positive inmates in Mississippi prisons (Tupelo Daily Journal, 1/31).