There are not a lot of solid rights for prisoners with HIV. There are two laws that could be interpreted as protecting prisoners with HIV:
- The 8th Amendment "Cruel and Usual Punishment" Clause
- The Americans with Disabilities Act
The 8th Amendment states that no citizen may be subject to cruel and unusual punishment. For prisoners, this means that officials cannot neglect a prisoner who is in need of medical treatment. However, this standard does not provide much protection for specific medical treatment for prisoners with HIV. While prison officials are not allowed to let an inmate diagnosed with HIV go untreated, no court has interpreted the clause as mandating that inmates must be allowed access to HIV specialists.
The ADA gives a little more protection for HIV-infected prisoners, stating that those prisoners must be allowed equal access to prison programs for which they are otherwise qualified.
What Do Prisons Tend to Do Concerning Treatment of Prisoners with HIV?
Some prisons have now what is called a "cluster" program. Essentially what happens is that prisoners with HIV are segregated into one part of the prison. The purpose of this is so that a certain portion of the prison staff can be used to exclusively treat HIV-infected prisoners, so those staff members involved in that program can ensure up-to-date treatment. Also, by segregating the prisoners, prison officials hope to help stop the spread of HIV among prisoners.
However, some opponents of the program feel that due to a lack of funding to prisons, prisoners with HIV will not get the attention and care promised by the program. Furthermore, the program could conflict with the ADA since prisoners who are being clustered do not necessarily have equal access to prison programs such as work and educational programs.
Do I Need an Attorney?
In the past few years there has been at least one class action suit filed by HIV-infected prisoners for unconstitutional medial treatment and living conditions. If you feel you have been subject to similar violations, you may want to consult a civil rights attorney. Your attorney can advise you of your rights and let you know if you may be entitled to money damages in a lawsuit against the correctional facility.