From: Elaine Mbionwu
Sent: Monday, November 05, 2001 10:21 AM
Subject: Inmates and Infectious/Hazardous Material Handling - Elmore, AL
This is just one of the many issues to be addressed by the National Criminal Justice Coalition on Human Rights. If interested in
joining the Coalition, please contact Elaine Mbionwu at 202-408-9514 ext. 124.
SOUTHERN CENTER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
83 POPLAR STREET, N.W., ATLANTA, GEORGIA 30303 (404) 688-1202 VOICE (404) 688-9440 FAX
Media contacts: Marion Chartoff and Sara Totonchi (404) 688-1202
«««EMBARGOED UNTIL NOVEMBER 5, 2001 12:01 a.m.«««
Inmates working in Alabama Prison Recycling Center Forced to Handle Used Syringes; other Hazardous Waste.
Lawsuit filed to Halt Inhumane and Unconstitutional Treatment.
ELMORE, ALABAMA -- Attorneys from the Atlanta-based Southern Center
for Human Rights (SCHR) filed a lawsuit
today against Department of Corrections Commissioner Michael Haley and Earnest L. Harrelson, Warden of the Elmore
Correctional Facility, and other officials at the Elmore Facility seeking declaratory and injunctive relief on behalf of present and
future inmates of the Elmore Correctional Facility (Elmore). The prisoners are forced to labor without pay under severely
unsanitary and dangerous conditions in the prison recycling center, sorting through hazardous waste materials often with little or
no protective gear.
Inmates are required to pick through, on a regular basis, garbage consisting
of dirty diapers, used tampons and sanitary
napkins, urine specimen cups, used hypodermic needles, used intravenous bags and needles, razors, blood-soaked gauze and
bandages, dead animals, rotten food infested with maggots, broken glass, laboratory test tubes and bottles containing bacteria
and other specimens, containers with chemicals, jagged-edged open cans, and bags filled with materials labeled "biohazard."
The trash also contains discarded knives, prescription medicines, and alcoholic beverages.
The complaint filed today in Federal Court in Montgomery, Alabama states
that the practices of the Elmore facility deprive
inmates of the rights guaranteed to them by the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution and
Alabama law. Marion Chartoff, an attorney at SCHR representing the inmates states that, "Handling infectious materials
without protective equipment can lead sickness and death. Many inmates have already been injured and showed symptoms of
illness and others surely will if things do not change" Chartoff adds, "The conditions at Elmore threaten the general public as
well since diseases can easily spread from the inmates to the outside world."
The Elmore facility has also been operating for years without a permit
from the Alabama Department of Public Health, a clear
violation of Alabama law. Inmates receive no training on safety standards or proper protocol for handling the waste materials.
The only protective gear they are provided with are thin latex gloves that are neither tear-resistant, nor impermeable to liquids
and chemicals. Numerous inmates have been cut, lacerated, and stuck by used hypodermic needles, razors, broken glass and
other sharp objects in the waste stream and some are forced to go back to work on the recycling lines without any medical
attention. Exposure to human feces, blood and bodily fluids also pose serious risk of contracting bloodborne pathogens such
as human immunodeficiency virus and Hepatitis A, B and C. Inmates regularly complain of dizziness, headaches, nausea, skin
rashes and scabies from their handling of the garbage at Elmore.
Attorney Chartoff concludes, "The way the Elmore Recycling facility
is run seriously endangers the health and safety of the
inmates who work there. Forcing people to work under these conditions is simply irresponsible and inhumane."
A copy of the Complaint is available by calling (404) 688-1202.