Huntsville Times Examines HIV-Positive Inmates’ Case Against Limestone Correctional Facility
The Huntsville Times on Sunday examined whether five HIV-positive inmates at Limestone Correctional Facility in Alabama who are suing the state Department of Corrections and its medical provider "have a case" (Campbell, Huntsville Times, 12/15). A special unit of the Alabama prison system at Limestone houses more than 200 HIV-positive inmates, keeping them "systematically segregated round-the-clock and excluded from programs offered to other inmates." 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" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/20/01). In a separate suit filed in U.S. District Court in Birmingham on Nov. 18, inmates at Limestone brought suit against the state Department of Corrections and NaphCare, the private medical provider for the state prison system, alleging "inadequate living conditions" and medical care (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/25). The lawsuit alleges that prison officials do not respond to sick-call requests "in a timely way"; that treatment is not "human or adequate"; and that "inexpensive but effective" HIV/AIDS-related drugs are not made available (Huntsville Times, 12/15). According to David Lipman, the plaintiffs' lawyer, "at least" 41 inmates with HIV have died at the Limestone facility over the last three years -- a mortality rate more than five times the national average among other HIV-positive inmates. The lawsuit alleges that inmates are "housed in a dilapidated warehouse with holes in the roof, far away from the main prison" and that the building is not adequately heated and is "persistently infested" with rats, birds, roaches and mosquitoes (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/25). Brian Corbett, a spokesperson for the state Department of Corrections, said that the lawsuit is a "bunch of trumped up allegations that are hogwash."
Some inmates say "it appears" as if prison officials are doing what they can to repair the facility and provide "reasonable" health care, the Times reports. In addition, inmates say their care has improved since Naphcare brought in a new physician two years ago. Capt. Lloyd Wallace, the officer in charge of the special unit, agreed, saying "It's not as bad as it was." However, Wallace added, "[The inmates] think if they don't get exactly what they want, they are not getting proper care." According to inmate Darryl Floyd, the segregation policy is the most bothersome aspect of the inmates' treatment. To that end, several officials, including Jackie Walker, the HIV/AIDS/Hepatitis Information Coordinator for the ACLU's Prison Project, state Rep. Laura Hall (D) and state Sen. Hank Sanders (D) met with state Corrections Commissioner Mike Haley to discuss the possibility of implementing an HIV-segregation program similar to that of Mississippi. The Times reports that under reforms enacted last year by Mississippi prisons Commissioner Robert Johnson, HIV-positive inmates are segregated in living facilities, but are allowed to participate with other inmates in prison programs (Huntsville Times, 12/15).