The director of South Carolina's state prison system said Tuesday he is preparing for the U.S. Justice Department to sue the state for housing HIV-positive inmates in separate dorms.
"Apparently, this administration has decided that they would rather us not test for HIV at all, because that's really your only other option," Director Jon Ozmint said during a meeting of the governor's Cabinet. "They would rather our employees be put at risk, other inmates be put at risk and ultimately the public be put at risk. ... They're sending every indication they're going to sue us."
Ozmint said he received a letter from DOJ on June 22 indicating the government would file a lawsuit within 90 days unless the state ceased the practice, but he said he sees no reason to change the policy.
Since 1998, South Carolina has housed inmates with HIV and AIDS in dorms separate from all other prisoners. That same year, corrections officials started testing all inmates for HIV.
Inmates subsequently sued over the practice, but a federal appeals court has upheld the agency's policy. Officials say more than 400 HIV-positive inmates are now living together in a prison in Columbia.