Posted on December 24, 2012

Judge Orders Alabama to Stop Segregation of Prisoners Living with HIV

Fox News, December 21, 2012

A federal judge in Alabama has ordered the state to stop segregating its prisoners living with HIV, a “historic decision” according to prison advocates who successfully argued the practice violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In a 153-page ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Myron H. Thompson ruled Friday in a class-action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that the Alabama Department of Corrections discriminates against the state’s 250 prisoners living with the disease by housing them separately and denies them equal access to rehabilitative programs.

“Today’s decision is historic,” said Margaret Winter, associate director of the ACLU National Prison Project and lead counsel for the plaintiffs.  “It spells an end to a segregation policy that has inflicted needless misery on Alabama prisoners with HIV and their families.”

Thompson, in his decision, said that while the state’s segregation policy has been an unnecessary tool for preventing the transmission of HIV, it has been an effective one for “humiliating and isolating” prisoners living with the disease.

“It is not transmitted through casual contact or through the food supply,” he wrote. “A person would have to drink a 55-gallon drum of saliva in order for it to potentially result in a transmission. There is no documented case of HIV being sexually transmitted between women.”

Thompson’s ruling issued a permanent injunction ordering Alabama to halt its discriminatory practices, including the categorical exclusion of prisoners with HIV from work-release jobs in the food industry, assignment to faith-based honor dorms and other educational and vocational programs.

The decision also prohibits the state’s policy of requiring all male prisoners with HIV to wear white armbands at all times to inform others of their health status. {snip}

“Ending a policy that treated human beings like cattle to be tagged and herded is a tremendous victory for human rights,” said Olivia Turner, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama.