I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t pretend any expertise on the legal issues, but this brewing controversy about prison policy in South Carolina strikes me as a case of political correctness run amok. The state separates prisoners with AIDS and sends them to a separate facility that has specialized medical treatment. This policy also protects uninfected prisoners from exposure due to rape. I suppose one could argue that this is a form of quarantine, but all prisoners – by definition – are being quarantined, so that hardly seems to be a compelling argument. A former staffer with the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights division has a column in the Washington Examiner, which is excerpted below.
Two unpleasant topics of conversation most of us avoid are the epidemic of HIV/AIDS among prison inmates and a variety of sometimes violent events resulting in transmission of the disease. Some states long ago implemented policies to protect the uninfected part of the prison population while providing exceptional medical treatment and counseling to the infected population. In South Carolina, it has worked so well since 1998 that there has only been a single transmission of HIV/AIDS to a noninfected prisoner. All that may change, however, thanks to a threat from Eric Holder’s Justice Department. South Carolina received a letter from the now-infamous Civil Rights Division that the policy of keeping infected inmates at a designated facility, instead of scattered across the state in the general prison population, may unfairly stigmatize infected prisoners. To the Obama political appointees in the Civil Rights Division, this constitutes discrimination under the Americans With Disabilities Act. …Justice raises three primary objections to this effective and humane approach. First, it prevents infected prisoners “from participating in activities and jobs of their choosing.” Leave it to bureaucrats in Washington to concoct the grievance that prisoners have choices when it comes to activities in the first place. Second, DOJ claims the South Carolina program is unconstitutional, something the courts have repeatedly rejected. Once again we see the rule of law falling by the wayside when it comes to decisions of this Civil Rights Division. This is the same Civil Rights Division that was sanctioned more than $4 million during the Clinton administration for bringing cases as frivolous as the one against South Carolina prisons. Third, with all the pragmatism of a sociology lecture at Harvard, DOJ argues that the separation of the HIV/AIDS prisoners “stigmatizes” the prisoners. Ozmint responds, “Prison is a voluntary activity; breaking the law, earning a criminal record, and wearing ‘state issue,’ all stigmatize. Since one purpose of prison is punishment, this stigmatization is somewhat intentional.” How refreshing.