Alabama: HIV Inmates to Get More Contact With Other Inmates, Commissioner Says
November 1, 2007
New policy changes will allow segregated HIV-positive inmates in Alabama's prison system to have more contact with the general inmate population, Corrections Commissioner Richard Allen said Wednesday.
Alabama segregates HIV-positive inmates for "safety and prevention purposes," said Allen. HIV-positive men are housed in a separate unit at Limestone prison near Capshaw, as are women at Tutwiler prison near Wetumpka.
While the state's prison system has been one of the most restrictive in its segregation of inmates with HIV, it has in recent years relaxed its policies, allowing those prisoners to participate in trade school and adult education classes with the general prison population. Under the new changes, HIV-positive inmates will be allowed to visit with family members and attend religious services alongside HIV-negative inmates. Women in the HIV unit at Tutwiler will also be allowed to eat meals with other inmates, though those in the unit at Limestone will not due to space limitations, said Allen.
Allen said the changes were prompted by a September request by Rep. Laura Hall (D-Huntsville) and Sen. Hank Sanders (D-Selma) to consider desegregation. A poll of Limestone inmates found they "overwhelmingly voted they'd like to see this," said Allen. "People were deathly afraid of people with AIDS when this disease was new and not understood. We've learned a lot and it was the right thing to do at this time."
The system's in-prison transmission rate is almost zero, and most inmates are in better health upon release than when they were initially incarcerated, said Allen.
In 2004, the state settled a lawsuit that alleged that care at Limestone's HIV unit was so substandard it contributed to early deaths. In addition to improving medical treatment at Limestone, the system has worked to make improvements at Tutwiler after a lawsuit from the Southern Center for Human Rights.
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.