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Alabama Ends Policy Barring HIV+ Prisoners from Work Release

After more than two decades of intense advocacy by the ACLU, in August 2009 the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) agreed to end its practice of prohibiting prisoners with HIV from participating in work release programs. PLN has previously reported on this issue. [See: PLN, Dec. 2008, p.28].

Since 1987, the ACLU has fought against the ADOC’s policy of banning HIV-positive prisoners from work release. Eligible prisoners at the HIV segregation units at Limestone Correctional Facility and the Tutwiler Prison for Women now await transfer to work release programs as beds become available.

“One of the prisoners told us that when she recently received notice that she had been approved for work release, she wanted to weep,” said Olivia Turner, Executive Director of the ACLU of Alabama. “There is no way to overstate the humiliation these prisoners have suffered for so long, from being ostracized, isolated, and denied participation in a program that has been available to everyone else.”

With the ADOC’s policy reversal, South Carolina stands alone as the only prison system in the nation that bans HIV-positive prisoners from work release. The ACLU noted that there is more work to be done in Alabama, as the ADOC continues to bar prisoners with HIV from faith-based honor dorms, prison dining halls, and residential substance abuse and reentry programs. Such prisoners also have limited access to recreational opportunities and most prison jobs.

In 2003, the Alabama Governor’s HIV Commission for Children, Youth and Adults issued a report that found “the evidence is overwhelming that the exclusion of prisoners from educational, vocational, rehabilitative or community-based corrections programs, simply on the basis of HIV status, has no public health or correctional justification.”

Source: ACLU Press Releases

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