November 7, 2007
The American Civil Liberties Union is calling on Alabama's Department of Corrections to lift a ban on HIV-positive inmates participating in work release programs.
The state recently removed several restrictions for its prisoners with HIV, who are housed in segregated units within the Limestone and Tutwiler prisons. Most HIV-positive inmates can now eat, worship, and visit family members alongside the general prison population. "It looks like all the walls are tumbling down except in work release," said Margaret Winter, director of ACLU's National Prison Project. She plans to meet with state corrections officials about the matter within a week.
There are 12 work release centers across the state. Prisoners taking part in the program earn wages that are divided between their personal savings, paying restitution, and paying the corrections department.
Some reasons stem from the settlement of a 2004 lawsuit over care provided at Limestone, said Ruth Naglich, the department's associate commissioner of health services. For example, nurses must observe inmates taking their medication. "These inmates take medication that would be highly toxic [to those without HIV] and we can't allow them to keep it on their person," she said. "There's just all those complications that are there: rest periods during the day, air conditioned units."
11.02.2007; Desiree Hunter