As part of the United States Department of Justice’s (USDOJ) efforts to ensure governmental compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an agreement was recently reached with the State of South Carolina Department Of Corrections in regards to applying the Act to prison situations. In this particular case, HIV-infected prisoners were denied services, programs or activities solely due to their status.
HIV-positive inmates were segregated and provided unequal opportunities at South Carolina correctional facilities. The establishment of "HIV only" dorms and programs was determined to be in violation of the ADA. Requiring the wearing of clothing or identification that advertised their status was also deemed a violation of the ADA and would also seem to be a violation of HIPPA, although that issue did not appear to be raised in the recent settlement. Excluding HIV-positive inmates from certain activities, including work-release and working in food preparation areas was also considered a violation.
Many people would argue that the ADA was never intended to provide protection to prisoners.
However, the way the ADA is written requires that such protections be afforded to all citizens. Perhaps now is a good time for Congress to address modifications to the ADA in order to work out the quirks and kinks that have developed over the past 20 years. It is doubtful Congress ever intended for the ADA to be used by "professional plaintiffs” as an avenue of filing hundreds of lawsuits in order to generate attorneys’ fees.
However, the hope that Congress will resolve minor matters may be a bit too optimistic given the scope of the issues they have had in the past year. Regardless, it is an area that could use further examination and repair.
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