Today the Associated Press reported on an issue that our National Prison Project has been working on since late last year. Alabama is the only state in the nation that continues to discriminate against HIV-positive prisoners, including, as this story points out, preventing them from participating in work-release programs that would reintegrate inmates back into society. While prison officials claim such discrimination is necessary for the prisoners' health, we disagree:
"I think we're dealing with a long custom here in Alabama. There's fear here,'' said Margaret Winter, associate director of the ACLU's National Prison Project. ''Certainly we have no reason to think anything the commissioner is doing is based on malice - far from it - but there needs to be a rational look at the facts."
Work release ultimately ''means less crime, fewer people returning to prison and ultimately it means a safer society for everybody,'' said David Fathi, director of the U.S. Program of Human Rights Watch. ''So by denying work release to inmates with HIV who would otherwise be eligible, Alabama is shooting itself in the foot.''
You can learn more about this issue on our webpage, which features video of two prisoners who speak about the discrimination they face at two different Alabama prisons. We also have two podcasts from two former prisoners: Eric Howard speaks about how he would have benefitted from participating in work-release programs at the Limestone Correctional Facility, and Paulette Nichols speaks about how such discrimination affected her incarceration at the Julia Tutwiler Prison in Wetumpka, Ala.