Federal Judge Removes Injunction on Mississippi Dept. of Corrections Regarding Treatment of HIV-Positive Inmates
A federal judge on Thursday issued an order removing an injunction in a 15-yearlong lawsuit between the American Civil Liberties Union and the Mississippi Department of Corrections concerning the conditions and treatment of HIV-positive inmates in Mississippi, the AP/Biloxi Sun Herald reports. The original lawsuit was filed in 1990 on behalf of prisoners at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. In 1999, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jerry Davis ordered the MDOC to provide HIV-positive inmates with combination antiretroviral medication (Mohr, AP/Biloxi Sun Herald, 3/31). In 2001, Mississippi began allowing HIV-positive inmates to participate in all in-prison vocational, rehabilitation and educational programs, but they were excluded from community corrections programs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/21/04). Davis in June 2004 issued an injunction requiring the MDOC to allow HIV-positive prisoners to participate in the state's community work programs, effectively ending the segregation of HIV-positive inmates and other prisoners. However, Davis on Thursday said the injunction no longer is necessary because the conditions of HIV-positive inmates had improved sufficiently (AP/Biloxi Sun Herald, 3/31).
"MDOC will always strive to perform its duties strictly within the terms of the law," Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps said in a statement, adding, "Today's court ruling shows our commitment to the appropriate care, custody and treatment of the state's incarcerated population." Margaret Winter, associate director of the ACLU's National Prison Project and lead attorney for the prisoners, called the lawsuit a "victory" for the inmates, according to the AP/Sun Herald. "There were really horrendous, terrifying conditions that these prisoners were living in," she said, adding, "Conditions have been so improved and medical conditions have been so improved that this case is over." Winter said she hopes that correctional facility officials will continue to improve conditions in the state's prisons, according to the AP/Sun Herald. Alabama is the only remaining state that bans HIV-positive inmates from participating in community work programs, according to Winter (AP/Biloxi Sun Herald, 3/31).