South Carolina to stop separating HIV inmates from other prisoners

Handcuffs, hand restraints

By Marlena Baldacci and Jason Hanna

(CNN) — One of the two U.S. states that separates its HIV-infected inmates from its general prison population says it plans to stop doing so.

The South Carolina Department of Corrections said Wednesday it intends to stop housing its HIV-positive inmates in facilities separate from the rest of its prisoners, as it has done since 1998.

The state currently houses 366 HIV-positive inmates at two different institutions in Columbia. No date for the policy change is set, but officials hope it will happen in the next six months, department spokesman Clark Newsom said.

“Our medical staff has examined all the facets of this issue, and we believe it is safe to make a change in our current policy,” department Director William Byars Jr. said.

Alabama also separates its HIV-positive inmates from the rest of its prisoners, though a federal judge ordered it to end the practice in December following a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union. Litigation in that case continues.

Mississippi dropped a similar policy in 2010.

The ACLU, which has campaigned to end such policies, hailed South Carolina’s decision.

“Ending a long outdated policy that stigmatized human beings and ignored modern medical information is a tremendous victory for human rights,” Susan K. Dunn, legal director of the ACLU of South Carolina, said in a news release. “While the segregation of HIV-positive prisoners has long been an unnecessary and ineffective tool for preventing the transmission of HIV, it has had the profound effect of humiliating and isolating prisoners living with the disease.”

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