Alabama Advocates Urge Officials to Remove Work Release Restrictions for HIV-Positive Inmates
March 25, 2008
Advocates in Alabama are calling on prison officials to remove work release restrictions for HIV-positive inmates, the AP/Alabama Live reports. According to the AP/Alabama Live, HIV-positive inmates in Alabama are eligible to participate in the Supervised Early Release Program, which allows them to live away from prisons near the end of their sentences. However, advocates say that Alabama is the only state with a prison system that bans HIV-positive people from participating in work release programs.
Margaret Winter, associate director of the American Civil Liberties Union's National Prison Project, said, "I think we're dealing with a long custom here in Alabama. There's fear here." She added, "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." Alabama Corrections Commissioner Richard Allen said that the situation is under review and that the issue is not very widespread. "We're talking about a very small number of inmates -- a handful of women and maybe a score of men when you consider who's eligible with the other criteria," Allen said.
Edward Harrison, president of the National Commission on Correctional Health Care, said the medical monitoring cited by Alabama prison officials can be a valid concern. He added that he assumes officials are open to alternate approaches "if it can be done without compromising security and health." Fathi said Alabama ultimately has to decide if it is in the state's best interest to keep HIV-positive inmates from participating in work release programs. "It's really about public safety," Fathi said, adding, "That means less crime, fewer people returning to prison and, ultimately, it means a safer society for everybody. So by denying work release to inmates with HIV who would otherwise be eligible, Alabama is shooting itself in the foot" (Hunter, AP/Alabama Live, 3/23).
This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.