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DOJ to Sue Over HIV-Positive Inmate Segregation

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By Jason Beahm on September 23, 2010 7:14 AM

The U.S. Department of Justice plans to sue South Carolina prison officials who are segregating inmates who test positive for HIV. Corrections Department attorney David Tatarsky, has challenged the government on the issue, arguing that from both a public health and security perspective, the prisons are better off when segregated in such a manner.

The prison is set up to house HIV-positive inmates together in maximum security facilities. Some HIV-positive inmates would not be in maximum security facilities were it not for the segregation. However, they are not segregated all day. The prison mixes all inmates during work, school and other activities. Inmate segregation only occurs when they eat and sleep.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch issued a report this year criticizing North Carolina and Alabama for housing HIV-positive inmates separately, The Associated Press reports. It wasn't long ago that segregating HIV-positive inmates was common; In the 1980s 46 of the nations 51 prison systems segregated infected inmates.

The report argued that HIV-positive inmates receive disparate treatment. For example, they cannot join work-release programs, which would allow them to work to shorten their sentences: "...they serve longer sentences and are essentially being warehoused for no reason other than a medical condition," said Margaret Winter of the ACLU.

The case is headed for a court battle, which will certainly have interesting implications on the future of inmate segregation as well as how much the federal government can intervene in such a state prison matter.

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