Miss. Dept. of Corrections Must Allow HIV-Positive Inmates To Apply for Community Work Programs, Federal Court Rules
U.S. Magistrate Judge Jerry Davis earlier this month ruled that the Mississippi Department of Corrections must allow HIV-positive inmates to participate in the state's community work programs, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports (Jackson Clarion-Ledger, 6/18). Although the state in 2001 began allowing HIV-positive inmates to participate in all in-prison vocational, rehabilitation and educational programs, they were excluded from community corrections programs, according to an ACLU release (ACLU release, 6/17). Under Davis' ruling, approximately 220 HIV-positive prisoners who have been housed separately from the general prison population now can qualify for transfer to lower security community work centers, the Clarion-Ledger reports. State DOC Commissioner Chris Epps said the agency agreed to the deal but stressed the need to "communicate and coordinate and integrate with the people that work with these inmates," adding that the workers "need to be properly trained" (Jackson Clarion-Ledger, 6/18). The decision marks the end of a 14-year legal battle, Margaret Winter, ACLU National Prison Project associate director and lead attorney for the prisoners, said, adding, "Now, with only Alabama continuing to exclude all prisoners with HIV/AIDS from community corrections programs, we hope to soon see the end of the era of officially sanctioned HIV discrimination in American prisons" (Mohr, AP/Biloxi Sun Herald, 6/18). Davis next week is expected to hear arguments in the ongoing case Gates v. Collier, which was filed by ACLU on behalf of Mississippi prisoners and alleges inadequate medical care and living conditions for HIV-positive inmates (ACLU release, 6/17).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.