ATHENS, Ala. - More than 200 male inmates who are HIV-positive at
Limestone Correctional Facility in Athens will have a chance to earn
GEDs, take part in vocational programs and spend time outside their
dorms, ending the state's practice of segregating them.
Last year, a commission appointed by ex-Gov. Don Siegelman
recommended admitting the prisoners into education, treatment and
work programs, prompting corrections officials to take another look
at the issue.
The prisoners were allowed in the programs for the first time
The only state prison system other than Alabama to retain total HIV
segregation into the 1990s was Mississippi. The American Civil
Liberties Union, which monitors state prison systems, said
Mississippi opened up its programs in 2001.
"Today male prisoners with HIV are closer to equality in Alabama
than they have ever been before," said Margaret Winter, associate
director of the ACLU's National Prison Project.
If the Department of Corrections allowed HIV-positive prisoners into
community-based programs at the same rate as other prisoners, the
state could save between $306,000 and $392,000 a year, an ACLU study
Conditions and medical care at Limestone prison, where all of
Alabama's male HIV-positive inmates are housed, remain the focus of
a 2002 class-action lawsuit.
The prison's medical staff says care has improved, but the lawsuit
has not been settled. Attorneys suing the state praised Monday's
change but said it was long overdue and more improvements are
DOC moved HIV-positive prisoners into better housing. The men live
in modular buildings with two-man cells, as opposed to the open
warehouse where they used to live, said prisons spokesman Brian
"They want to appear they've put their best foot forward before
they're in front of a federal judge," said Gretchen Rohr, an Atlanta
attorney with Holland and Knight, who is working with the Southern
Center for Human Rights on the lawsuit.
The policy reversal does not include female inmates with HIV. They
remain segregated and barred from classes at Tutwiler prison.
Winters and representatives of AIDS Alabama have asked Prison
Commissioner Donal Campbell to change Tutwiler's policies.
Information from: The Birmingham News