On May 29, 1990, HIV-positive inmates in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 seeking injunctive relief and alleging that the circumstances of their confinement were unconstitutional. The prisoners were represented by private counsel and by the National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. The case was assigned to Magistrate Judge Jerry A. Davis and on June 28, 1995, the Court (Magistrate Judge Davis) entered an agreed judgment of settlement and dismissal that was signed by Chief Judge Lyonel Thomas Senter, Jr.
The settlement agreement granted the prisoners class certification, designating the class as "all HIV-positive, convicted felony offenders committed pursuant to state law to the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, wherever now housed or hereafter to be housed within the State of Mississippi." The agreement required the MDOC to house HIV-positive prisoners in the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Unit-28. The HIV-positive prisoners housed in this unit were to be provided more frequent outdoor exercise, reasonable educational activities and courses, extended family visitation and increased medical care and review. The agreement also required the MDOC to provide all HIV-positive prisoners medically appropriate diets. The MDOC then submitted a proposed plan and phase-in timetable to comply with the settlement agreement which was accepted by Chief Judge Senter and filed on September 18, 1995.
In September 1996, the prisoners filed a motion to hold the MDOC in contempt for failing to comply with the settlement agreement. The motion alleged that the MDOC continued to deny HIV-positive prisoners the same access to MDOC programs as the general inmate population. The motion also alleged that the MDOC was not providing the HIV-positive prisoners with a truly separate housing unit which made their medical treatment less efficient and effective. These issues were litigated through November 1997 when the District Court (Chief Judge Senter) entered an agreed order granting the parties' joint motion to consolidate this case with Gates v. Collier
, PC-MS-0001. The order certified the plaintiffs in this case as a subclass of the larger class already certified in Gates as "[a]ll HIV-positive inmates sentenced to the custody of the MDOC" The issues involved in this case, regarding the treatment of HIV-positive prisoners by the MDOC, continued in litigation in Gates v. Collier.
On July 19, 1999, the Court granted a motion for a preliminary injunction requiring defendants to provide constitutionally adequate medical care and testing and to submit progress reports on the implementation of changes in policy. Class members moved the Court to allow the ACLU National Prison Project substitute as class counsel, though the Court denied this motion on February 2, 2000. The plaintiffs appealed, and on April 30, 2001, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit vacated in part and reversed in part the lower court's decision, though the appellate decision is not available on PACER.
Over the next few years, the Court awarded plaintiffs attorney fees, and on June 10, 2004, the Court ordered that defendants not exclude class members from consideration for community work center placement because of their HIV-positive status. This case was eventually dismissed on March 31, 2005, when the Court found that both the PLRA and the compliance with previous orders had provided sufficient relief for the class. Inmates who were HIV+ had been integrated into the general prison population except for housing, and discrimination with respect to services and privileges had been addressed by the defendants.Tom Madison - 09/23/2006
Maurice Youkanna - 07/27/2014