Alabama Department of Corrections Asks Federal Judge To Dismiss Contempt Motion Filed by HIV-Positive Inmates
Attorneys for the Alabama Department of Corrections have asked a federal judge to dismiss a recent contempt motion that was filed by attorneys representing 240 HIV-positive state prison inmates and requests that the judge hold the state in contempt of court for violating a settlement that required DOC to provide better medical care in prisons, the AP/TuscaloosaNews.com reports. The request calls the complaints "misleading and inaccurate" and says DOC has taken "adequate steps" to comply with the settlement, according to the AP/TuscaloosaNews.com (Jafari, AP/TuscaloosaNews.com, 4/29). Attorneys for the inmates in February filed a motion to have U.S. District Judge Karon Bowdre hold the state in contempt of court for violating the settlement. The department in April 2004 settled a 2002 federal lawsuit filed by HIV-positive inmates at the Limestone Correctional Facility. Under the settlement -- which was signed by the department; Birmingham-based NaphCare, the prison system's former medical contractor; and plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit -- the department is required to provide various improvements in living conditions and medical care for the state's HIV-positive inmates, who are housed at a 300-person HIV unit at Limestone. An August 2003 report by the Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights provided a detailed case summary of the deaths of 38 HIV-positive inmates between 1999 and 2002 and concluded that the unit's medical care system was substandard. Under the settlement, the department is required to allow a medical consultant to monitor the conditions of the HIV unit on a quarterly basis for two years and must hire a full-time nurse to coordinate infection control and inmate medical care (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/23). The filing also was in response to a complaint filed last month by SCHR alleging that the prison system has not corrected "extensive noncompliant acts," the AP/TuscaloosaNews.com reports.
The state said that as part of its "comprehensive action plan" to improve conditions in the prisons, the new health care contractor, Prison Healthcare Services, has added two nurses, trained medical staff, established a hepatitis C treatment program and enacted a "zero tolerance" policy for nurses who violate treatment guidelines, according to the AP/TuscaloosaNews.com. "We've made tremendous improvements," Willard Mosier, medical director for the state prisons, said, adding, "Given time, we will not only put together an excellent health care system but also be an example on how to do things. It's just going to take time and a few more resources." Although DOC has not hired a permanent HIV specialist, as is required under the settlement, the court filing says they "have worked tirelessly to retain" someone for the position (AP/TuscaloosaNews.com, 4/29).