Alabama One of Just Two States that Still Practices this Form of Systematic Discrimination
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Opening arguments began today in a suit by the American Civil Liberties Union that seeks to end an Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) policy to segregate all prisoners living with HIV.
The policy also excludes all prisoners living with HIV from a host of rehabilitative, vocational and mental health programs. ADOC forces male prisoners with HIV to wear a white armband day and night, disclosing their HIV status to others.
The ACLU filed a federal class-action lawsuit last year on behalf of prisoners in ADOC facilities living with HIV. The trial in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama is expected to last three to four weeks.
“The mere fact that a person has HIV does not make him a threat to anyone, and there is no legitimate reason whatsoever to categorically segregate prisoners with HIV,” said Margaret Winter, associate director of the ACLU National Prison Project. “There’s a national consensus among state prison administrators, public health officials and correctional medical experts that segregation of prisoners with HIV is not only unnecessary but counter-productive.”
Along with South Carolina, Alabama is one of only two states that continue to segregate all prisoners with HIV in separate, specially designated housing units. Mississippi ended its segregation policy in 2010 when the ACLU and Human Rights Watch released a report documenting the stigma, harassment and systemic discrimination segregated prisoners with HIV face.
“Alabama’s treatment of these prisoners is an appalling relic of previous decades’ ignorance and irrational fear of HIV and AIDS,” said Amanda Goad, staff attorney with the ACLU AIDS Project. “It is well established that there is no medical possibility of transmitting HIV through casual contact or through jobs like food service or laundry. Prison medical facilities are more than capable of administering modern HIV treatments, just like they provide treatment for other chronic medical conditions. There is no legitimate basis for claiming that desegregating prisoners will cause disruption or violence.”
More information about this case can be found at: www.aclu.org/hiv-aids-prisoners-rights/henderson-et-al-v-thomas-et-al