AP/Montgomery Advertiser Examines Debate Over Segregating HIV-Positive Inmates From General Prison Population
The AP/Montgomery Advertiser on Monday examined issues surrounding the segregation of HIV-positive inmates from the general prison population. Regulations in two prisons in Alabama previously restricted HIV-positive inmates from participating in some activities -- such as eating, worshiping and visiting family members -- with other inmates. Prison officials in November 2007 announced that they planned to eliminate some of the restrictions.
However, space issues at one of the prisons have kept some of the regulations in place, according to Margaret Winter, associate director of the American Civil Liberties Union's National Prison Project. Winter said that inmates living with HIV/AIDS must visit with their families in a separate visiting area and sit in separate pews during chapel services. Alabama Prisons Commissioner Richard Allen said the segregation is a "security issue," adding, "One thing we don't want to do is put the [HIV-positive inmates] in a situation where other inmates want to retaliate against them."
Integration of HIV-positive people into the general prison population has "gone much more smoothly" at the second prison, according to the AP/Advertiser. In addition, Allen said the Department of Corrections has started classes to help educate prisoners about HIV/AIDS, as well as to address related stigma and misconceptions about the disease. Winter said ACLU is recommending that the department offer 90 days of "intensive HIV education," adding, "I think we feel strongly that without that, it could be another 20 years" of inmate segregation. ACLU is advocating for HIV-positive inmates in Alabama to be allowed to participate in work release programs. "It's going to take some time," Allen said, adding, "It may take several sessions. We're committed to getting the attitudes changed" (Hunter, AP/Montgomery Advertiser, 3/17).