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Judge ends lawsuit over HIV-positive prisoners in Mississippi

Judge ends lawsuit over HIV-positive prisoners in Mississippi

On Thursday in Jackson, Miss., U.S. magistrate judge Jerry A. Davis ended a 15-year-long lawsuit between the American Civil Liberties Union and the Mississippi Department of Corrections over the treatment of HIV-positive inmates. The judge found that conditions for the prisoners had improved enough that injunctive relief was no longer needed. Margaret Winter, the associate director of ACLU's National Prison Project and lead counsel for the prisoners, says HIV-positive inmates filed suit in 1990 over conditions at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. In 1999, Davis ordered MDOC to give HIV-positive prisoners access to antiretroviral drug combination therapy. In June 2004, he directed MDOC to allow HIV-positive prisoners to participate in the system's community work programs, ending the segregation of the approximately 220 inmates who had been housed separately from the rest of the prison population. Winters says she hopes the state will continue to improve conditions for the prisoners even though the lawsuit is over. In a prepared statement, corrections commissioner Christopher Epps said, "Today's court ruling shows our commitment to the appropriate care, custody, and treatment of the state's incarcerated population." Winters recalls the "really horrendous, terrifying conditions that these prisoners were living in." She notes that "one and only one of the prisoners who brought that suit is still alive. I don't think he would be alive right now if not for that injunction." "Conditions have been so improved and medical conditions have been so improved that this case is over," Winters says. (AP)

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