By Michelle Garcia
Originally published on Advocate.com January 02 2013 3:15 PM ET
Alabama's prisons have been ordered to stop segregating HIV-positive prisoners from the rest of the population, by a federal judge on Wednesday.
U.S. District Court Judge Myron H. Thompson ruled that segregating prisoners based on their HIV status is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which defended the prisoners. Because the state department of corrections discriminates against the prisoners by housing them separately, HIV-positive prisoners are often denied equal access to prison rehabilitative programs.
During the month-long trial the Alabama Department of Correction's associate commissioner admitted that he no longer believes the segregation policy is justified.
"It is evident that, while the [Alabama Department Of Corrections'] categorical segregation policy has been an unnecessary tool for preventing the transmission of HIV, it has been an effective one for humiliating and isolating prisoners living with the disease," Thompson wrote in his decision.
Amanda Goad, a staff attorney with the ACLU AIDS Project, said she and her colleagues were looking forward to see how the judge's ruling plays out.
"Alabama's policies regarding prisoners living with HIV are relics from an era of hysteria," she said
According to the lawsuit, Henderson et al. v. Thomas et al., there are approximately 240 male and 10 female prisoners living with HIV in Alabama's jails.