Thoughts: Should HIV-positive Prisoners Be Segregated?
When it comes to prisons and the treatment of prisoners, provisions are constantly in battle over polices and regulations. The latest issue being debated on is the treatment of HIV-positive prisoners.
In Alabama, prisoners are made to wear white wrist bands to distinguish themselves from other inmates. While in South Carolina, prisoners are housed in maximum-security facilities alongside those on death row.
The American Civil Liberties Union will be in court Monday to challenge Alabama’s long standing policy of segregating HIV positive prisoners from the remainder of the prison population, the Associated Press reports.
U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson will hear arguments in a trial at the federal courthouse in Montgomery on whether he should order Alabama prison officials to end the policy. The issue has been tried twice before with each trial ending with rulings against the inmates. The state has asked Thompson to throw the case out and rule that the issues have been covered in the previous trials. Thompson has said he would defer a ruling on that motion until after he has heard the testimony in this trial.
The lead attorney in the case for the ACLU, Margaret Winter, said HIV is now controlled by medicine and is no longer the death sentence it was once considered to be. She called continuing to isolate HIV inmates “absurd” and said Alabama and South Carolina are the only states that continue the practice.
Although prisoners waive certain rights for committing crimes, the lawsuit mentions that each inmate upon entering the prison system in tested for HIV.
“The HIV test will determine where the prisoner will be housed, eat, and recreate,” the suit says.
The trial is expected to last about a month.
Proponents believe that segregation will do more for the welfare and health of other inmates, and staff who work closely with them. Concerns stem from those not being honest about his or her HIV status and using it to retaliate against fellow prisoners.
However, given the often hostile and aggressive nature of prisons, segregation would be an easy decision to make. However separating out those who are HIV-positive by making them wear wristbands is blatantly discriminatory. Not allowing this group to interact on the basis of HIV is not understandable. With millions of dollars invested in programs, educating those incarcerated about stigmas surrounding the disease would be a better use of time.