Human Rights Group Releases Report on Medical Treatment, Living Conditions of HIV-Positive Alabama Inmates
The Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights on Tuesday released a report on the medical treatment and living conditions of the 300-person HIV unit of Alabama's Limestone Correctional Facility, the only facility in the country that segregates HIV-positive inmates from other inmates, the Birmingham News reports. The report was filed as part of a class-action federal lawsuit, Leatherwood et al. v. Campbell, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama in March by the center against the Alabama Department of Corrections and Birmingham-based NaphCare, the prison system's medical contractor (Crowder, Birmingham News, 8/28). The 125-page report, written by Dr. Stephen Tabet, an infectious disease expert, gives a detailed case summary of the deaths of 38 HIV-positive inmates between 1999 and 2002, as well as Tabet's assessment of the medical care that the inmates received. The report also includes an examination of the current facilities, including medical examinations of prisoners conducted on Feb. 12 and Feb. 13, 2003, according to the Mobile Register (McGaughey, Mobile Register, 8/28).
Tabet writes in the report that the unit's medical care system is "broken, severely distressed and often non-existent," according to the News (Birmingham News, 8/28). Tabet concludes that in nearly all of the deaths investigated, "the death was preceded by a failure to provide proper medical care or treatment" and all of the deaths were caused by "preventable illnesses." In addition, Tabet said that the "overcrowded" side-by-side, head-to-toe bunk beds "placed these immune-compromised patients and the staff at an undue risk of acquiring contagious diseases." Brian Corbett, spokesperson for the state corrections department, on Wednesday declined to comment on the pending lawsuit but said that it is "important to note that this report was done on behalf of the plaintiffs by their chosen expert." David Lipman, the attorney representing the HIV-positive prisoners in the suit, said that the department's own independent monitor, Jacqueline Moore and Associates, in 2002 reported similar findings. The lawsuit could be settled out of court as early as next month. If a settlement is not reached, Lipman said that the trial is scheduled to be heard before a federal district judge sometime after Jan. 15, 2004 (Mobile Register, 8/28).