On March 28, 2011, a class of HIV-positive men and women imprisoned by the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) filed this lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, under the American with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Rehabilitation Act. The plaintiffs, ...
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On March 28, 2011, a class of HIV-positive men and women imprisoned by the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) filed this lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, under the American with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Rehabilitation Act. The plaintiffs, represented by the ACLU of Alabama, the national ACLU, the ACLU AIDS Project, and the ACLU National Prison Project, sought declaratory and injunctive relief.
The plaintiffs alleged that the ADOC's policy of segregating HIV-positive prisoners from the rest of the general population violated the ADA. Specifically, they alleged that the ADOC did not provide those prisoners with equal treatment by excluding them from certain housing units, substance abuse programs, jobs, certain medical treatment, and work release. Additionally, they challenged the ADOC policy of publicizing the prisoners HIV-positive status by requiring them to wear white armbands, thus stigmatizing those with HIV.
On August 30, 2012, the District Court (Judge Myron H. Thompson) approved the plaintiff's motion to certify the class, finding that the requirements for class certification had been met (289 F.R.D. 506). On September 5, 2012, Judge Thompson denied the defendant's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted (891 F.Supp.2d 1296). In this ruling, Judge Thompson found that the plaintiffs "plausibly alleged" that the prisoner's HIV status qualified as an impairment that substantially limited a major life ability, as required under the ADA, because the immune system of the person diagnosed was impaired. He also found that the claim under the Rehabilitation Act was sufficient because HIV did not fall under the Act's contagious disease exception. Judge Thompson also held that the plaintiffs didn't need to exhaust their administrative remedies, as required under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, because the prison didn't provide appropriate forms for the prisoners to use to file administrative grievances. Finally, he held that sovereign immunity did not apply, and thus the ADOC could be sued.
On December 21, 2012, Judge Thompson held that the policies of the ADOC did violate the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act (2012 WL 6681773). After finding that the plaintiffs had standing to sue and that their claims were not moot, Judge Thompson held that the blanket policy of segregation violated the two acts and that housing HIV-positive inmates at other facilities would not provide an undue burden on the state. The court did not address the allegations regarding the work release policy.
On August 6, 2013, the court preliminarily approved the parties' proposed settlement agreement. Under the terms of the detailed agreement, the defendant agreed to the following: discontinuation of separate HIV housing and isolation at intake; revision of all HIV-specific policies and protocols; maintenance of an Acute Care Unit for inmate care; implementation of a detailed procedure before any HIV-positive inmate is transferred to defendant's facilities; adoption of new hiring and reporting requirements; and payment of $1.3 million in attorneys fees. The judge formally approved the parties' settlement agreement and ordered the case closed on September 30, 2013.Jonathan Forman - 07/05/2013
Priyah Kaul - 11/18/2014