Ala. Corrections Department's Lapses in Medical Treatment Violated HIV-Positive Inmates' Rights, Judge Says
June 10, 2004
A U.S. Magistrate judge last week said that Alabama prison officials violated HIV-positive inmates' constitutional rights and that poor medical care caused the early deaths of some inmates, the Birmingham News reports. Judge John Ott issued his 28-page report after the state Department of Corrections settled a 2002 federal lawsuit filed by HIV-positive inmates at the Limestone Correctional Facility (Crowder, Birmingham News, 6/8). Under the settlement -- signed last month by the department; Birmingham-based NaphCare, the prison system's former medical contractor; and plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit -- the corrections department is required to provide dozens of improvements in living conditions and medical care for the state's HIV-positive inmates. The Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights in August 2003 released a report on the 300-person HIV unit at Limestone as part of the lawsuit, Leatherwood et al. v. Campbell, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama in March 2003 by the center against DOC and NaphCare. The 125-page report 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. According to the report, in nearly all of the 38 deaths, "death was preceded by a failure to provide proper medical care or treatment" and "preventable illnesses" caused all of the deaths. In addition, the report said that the "overcrowded," side-by-side, head-to-toe bunk beds of the facility "placed these immune-compromised patients and the staff at an undue risk of acquiring contagious diseases." Under the settlement, DOC must allow a medical consultant to monitor the conditions of the HIV unit on a quarterly basis for two years. In addition, DOC must hire a full-time nurse to coordinate infection control and inmate medical care (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/28).
Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at www.kaisernetwork.org/dailyreports/hiv. The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of the Kaiser Family Foundation, by The Advisory Board Company. © 2004 by The Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.
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