Associated Press Profiles Segregated HIV-Positive Inmates in Alabama Prison System
An Associated Press story running in several newspapers this weekend reported on the Special Unit of the Alabama prison system that houses more than 200 HIV-positive inmates, keeping them "systematically segregated round-the-clock and excluded from programs offered to other inmates" at the Limestone Correctional Facility in Capshaw. Although inmates complain that the close living quarters are "stressful and unhealthy" -- the unit has the highest rate of pneumonia among the cellhouses at Limestone -- the policy has "fueled a spirit of camaraderie and self-reliance," as the men run their own substance abuse counseling sessions and AIDS education courses and organize memorial services when fellow inmates die. The segregation policy was under attack for nearly 16 years until the Supreme Court last year refused to hear an appeal in which some of the inmates accused Alabama of "unconstitutional discrimination." Since the court's refusal, state officials have "made clear" that they will continue the policy despite criticism. Preventing the spread of HIV among prisoners "outweighs the rights they may have to equal programming," Department of Corrections attorney Andy Reed said. Mississippi and South Carolina also segregate their HIV-positive prisoners, but South Carolina allows some access to shared programs, and Mississippi officials have "promised" to do the same (AP/Washington Times, 8/19).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.