Lawyer says state neglects HIV inmates
By Holly Hollman 
DAILY Staff Writer · 340-2445 

20th November 2002 

CAPSHAW - A Miami attorney says he filed a lawsuit Monday against the state for not providing adequate medical care for HIV-infected inmates. He said that 12 HIV inmates have died at Limestone Correctional Facility this year. 

Warden Billy Mitchem said nine - not 12 -have died this year. 

"And that's not uncommon," Mitchem said. 

Limestone Correctional houses the state's HIV male inmate population, which was 240 inmates on Tuesday. The state segregates HIV inmates from the main prison population. 

The suing attorney, David Lipman, who sent out a press release via e-mail, stated that 41 HIV inmates have died at the prison in the past three years. He did not say where he got his figures. 

As of press time, Mitchem and Alabama Department of Corrections spokesman Brian Corbett did not have a three-year total to compare with Lipman's total. 

According to an Aug. 2001 Associated Press story, three HIV inmates died between January and August 2001. 

October 2002 figures from the Department of Justice had Alabama with eight HIV-inmate related deaths in 2000, the latest figure. That figure can include female HIV-infected inmates, whom the state houses at Julia Tutwiler Correctional Facility. 

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of inmates Antonio Leatherwood, Eric Howard, Jerry Sanford, John Levins and Michael Patrick. The lawsuit is filed in federal district court in Birmingham. 

Corbett said the state has not received a copy and has not been able to obtain a copy. 

Lipman's e-mail also accused the prison of letting HIV inmates suffer boils that burst and cause a "foul-smelling pus" to leak. He said the prison houses HIV inmates in a "dilapidated warehouse with holes in the roof" with insect and rat infestations. 

Mitchem said the prison renovated the warehouse building in 1994 or 1995. He said it originally housed a community work center, then the chain gang and then the HIV inmates. 

"It offers more open room, like a bay area, and a yard for exercise," he said. "It's a good, solid building. Yes, it undergoes repairs from time-to-time, but we have maintenance for that." 

Mitchem said the building houses 200 HIV inmates. Forty more inmates are in some type of protective custody. He said the building can house up to 250 inmates. 

The warden said some HIV inmates did suffer a rash or some type of insect bites earlier this year. 

"We still don't know what caused this," he said. 

Mitchem said the prison had the county spray for insects, including mosquitoes, and fumigate the facility. 

"We haven't seen any spiders for a long time," he said. "And I haven't heard any complaints about sores in the last two months." 

The renovated warehouse includes a nursing station that provides medications three times a day. The building's main room has a bunk bed section, TV-viewing areas with wooden benches, a handcraft area and a surveillance post.