MDOC to end segregation of HIV inmates

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JACKSON, Miss. — Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps says the Mississippi prison system will end the practice of keeping male HIV-positive inmates in segregated units.

JACKSON, Miss. — Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps says the Mississippi prison system will end the practice of keeping male HIV-positive inmates in segregated units. Starting in May, Epps says male HIV-positive inmates will be allowed into general prison population. Epps said he plans to gradually implement the policy while moving 152 prisoners housed at the state penitentiary at Parchman to prisons throughout the system. The ACLU brought suit against the state in 1990 on behalf of HIV-positive prisoners housed at Parchman to force the state to provide proper medical care. In 2005, U.S. Magistrate Jerry Davis ruled Mississippi Department of Corrections had addressed problems with prisoner conditions, ending the suit. Epps told The Clarion-Ledger he would have ended segregation of the prisoners then, but the ACLU asked they be kept separate. "The ACLU asked us not to (move the prisoners) because they were concerned about the inmates going out into general population as it relates to their safety," Epps said. "After they contacted me and asked me about it, I said, ‘Well, this would have been done if you hadn’t asked me not to do it.’" ACLU spokesman Will Matthews said the organization initially was concerned prisoners held in the unit would be ostracized and subject to possible violence if they were introduced into the general population. Epps said female HIV-positive inmates already are housed among the general population. A small number of HIV-positive male inmates are serving their time in low-security community correctional facilities, he said. Epps said MDOC has 258 male and female inmates with HIV or AIDS. He said there are 5,621 inmates with medical conditions ranging from failing kidneys to heart disease. "Those are some staggering numbers for a population of 21,000 people," he said. Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

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