Louisiana Jail Settles with DOJ Over HIV Discrimination
by Dale Chappell
The Union Parish Detention Center (UPDC) in Farmerville, Louisiana reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in March 2018 to stop discriminating against HIV-positive prisoners, plus the parish agreed to pay $27,500 to one detainee held in segregation for six months due to his HIV status.
UPDC staff confined the prisoner with HIV to his cell and posted signs on his door while jail employees deliberately told other prisoners about his HIV status, exposing him to harassment and potential harm, the DOJ found. The Department of Justice is authorized to investigate complaints under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131-12134. Those who are HIV-positive are considered to have a disability under the ADA.
The agreement requires the UPDC to stop segregating prisoners with HIV and to afford them the same benefits as other prisoners, including equal housing, recreation, commissary services and access to dayrooms, televisions and phones. The UPDC is also required to assign an ADA coordinator and to report its enforcement of the agreement to the DOJ. Further, all UPDC staff must receive annual HIV training.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HIV cannot be transmitted through saliva, sweat, tears or casual contact. Sharing bathroom facilities, dishes and phones, for example, does not spread HIV.
The agreement also established a complaint procedure for prisoners who feel they have faced discrimination at the UPDC, and directed jail staff to house HIV-positive detainees “in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs.”
“This agreement ensures that Union Parish Detention Center will respect the right of individuals with HIV to equal treatment under the law,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore, with the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division. “Segregation of detainees with HIV in jails or prisons is unlawful, subjects individuals to unwarranted stigma and harm and will not be tolerated by this Justice Department.”
The UPDC reached the agreement with the DOJ before a lawsuit was filed.
Sources: www.hannapub.com, DOJ/UPDC Settlement Agreement (March 2018)