Since 1998 the South Carolina Department of Corrections has housed inmates who have HIV and AIDS separately from the rest of the prison population. Now corrections director Jon Ozmint is concerned that the federal government threatens a lawsuit if that practice is not changed.
Ozmint says the practice has been supported by federal courts in the past, when inmates brought cases against the state. He says it’s “almost pathetic” how the Department of Justice under the Obama Administration is pushing to change a good policy that prevents serious disease.
Ozmint says the number of HIV-positive inmates has dropped from 582 in 2000 to 420 this year, even though the prison population has increased.
Ozmint emphasizes that inmates in the separate dormitories are allowed to attend activities with other inmates on a daily basis. He says the one thing they are not allowed to do is work in the cafeteria. Ozmint says,
They go to chapel with other inmates. They go to work with other inmates. They go to school with them, play sports with them. They’re not segregated. They’re simply housed together in a community where the staff that work in that building and the medical staff know how to deal with HIV-AIDS.