Investigation Finds Nevada Discriminated Against Inmates With HIV or Disabilities

Laura Joszt

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has found that the Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC) has been discriminating against inmates with HIV and with disabilities, according to a letter of findings issued.
NDOC has been found to illegally segregate and stigmatize inmates with HIV, and it has incarcerated inmates with disability for longer periods and in more restrictive settings that inmates without disabilities.
The review of NDOC initially started after the DOJ received complaints from inmates that NDOC placed inmates with HIV in segregated housing and also denied them equal opportunities to earn work credits to reduce the length of their sentences. During the course of the review, the DOJ also received complaints about the treatment of inmates with mobility disabilities or certain medical or mental health conditions.
“No inmate should have to stay in segregated housing because of a HIV diagnosis or serve a longer sentence because of a disability,” Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said in a statement. “Real and lasting reform in Nevada will require not only systemic changes to its policies, practices and procedures, but also a commitment to address unfounded stereotypes, fears and assumptions about individuals with disabilities.”
Not only is the NDOC’s policy to house inmates with HIV either with other inmates with HIV along medically unnecessary, but it effectively discloses an inmate’s HIV status to other inmates and employees at the prisons.
The DOJ also found that NDOC limits or entirely excludes certain categories of inmates from being placed at its lowest custody levels, which are less secure than NDOC prisons. Inmates that are excluded from these lower-security facilities include: inmates with mobility disabilities; inmates with medical conditions that NDOC deemed “chronic,” such as HIV, hepatitis B and C, diabetes, asthma, and hypertension; and inmates who take medications that NDOC classified as “non-keep-on-person,” such as anticoagulants, muscle relaxants, or medications for treatment of mental health conditions, HIV, tuberculosis, psoriasis, or rheumatoid arthritis.
The remedial measures that the DOJ put forth include abolishing the housing policy that segregates and isolates inmates with HIV on the basis of their HIV status; training and educating all employees and inmates about HIV and the virus’ methods of transmission; and modifying policies, practices, and procedures to ensure inmates with disabilities have the same work opportunities as inmates with disabilities.
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