Alabama Commission Calls for Inclusion of HIV-Positive Inmates in All Prison Programs
The Alabama Governor's HIV Commission for Children, Youth and Adults in a new report has recommended that the state's HIV-positive inmates be allowed to participate in all of the educational, vocational and community-based programs available to other inmates, the Associated Press reports (Associated Press, 9/22). The report said that the state's policy of excluding inmates from such programs "simply on the basis of HIV status, has no public health or correctional justification" (Bailey, Birmingham News, 9/23). Alabama is the only state to adhere to a policy of total segregation of HIV-positive prisoners, according to the Associated Press (Associated Press, 9/22). The report also said that the state's policy is a "costly mistake" because job, education and rehabilitation programs provide "the skills inmates need when they return to the free world, to break the cycle of poverty, addictions, dependence and recidivism." In addition, the state could save between $240,900 and $308,000 by allowing otherwise qualified HIV-positive inmates to participate in community-based programs, the report said, noting that it costs $26 per day to keep an inmate in a major state prison but only $11 per day to keep the same inmate in a community-based program. David Azbell, press secretary for Gov. Bob Riley (R), said that Corrections Commissioner Donal Campbell believes that HIV-positive inmates should have equal access to programs within the prison system but not to programs outside of the prisons, such as work release. According to the News, efforts to reach Campbell for comment were unsuccessful (Birmingham News, 9/23). Brian Corbett, a spokesperson for the prison system, said that the Alabama Department of Corrections is "working hard" toward the goal of extending prison-based programs to HIV-positive inmates but that there is no timetable for the expansion(Associated Press, 9/22).
The commission did not take a position on Alabama's policy of segregating the living quarters of HIV-positive inmates at Limestone Correctional Facility and Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women, saying that the policy "requires further study." Human Rights Watch on Monday called on Riley to address the "atrocious abuses of the right to health" of inmates at Limestone (Birmingham News, 9/23). The Southern Center for Human Rights last month released a report on the 300-person HIV unit at the facility, claiming that recent AIDS-related deaths were caused by "preventable illnesses" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/29). The SCHR report also called the facility's health system "broken, severely distressed and often non-existent" (Birmingham News, 9/23). The report was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama in March by the Southern Center against the Department of Corrections and Birmingham-based NaphCare, the prison system's medical contractor as part of a class-action federal lawsuit, Leatherwood et al. v. Campbell (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/29). The Governor's HIV Commission was established by former Gov. Don Siegelman (D) (Birmingham News, 9/23).