Published October, 2013

United States v. South Carolina Department of Corrections, No. 13-CV-2664 (D.S.C.) CONSENT DECREE

In this case, the federal government filed a lawsuit against the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) and the Director of the SCDC alleging discrimination against inmates living with HIV in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. 12131-12134, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 USC 794.

According to the federal government, SCDC denied inmates with HIV the opportunity to equally participate in and benefit from a variety of services, programs, and activities, and subjects inmates with HIV to segregation and unequal opportunities at correctional rehabilitation. More specifically, inmates with HIV were denied drug treatment, work release, pre-release preparation, hardship transfers, and psychiatric care. SCDC treated inmates with HIV differently with respect to orientation, visitation, and housing. Inmates living with HIV were segregated in "HIV-only" dorms in two of SCDC's highest security facilities, regardless of an inmate's security classification or individual behavior. Additionally, SCDC required inmates at these facilities to wear clothing or identification that advertises their "HIV-only" dorms, thus, publicizing their confidential HIV status to all staff, inmates, visitors, and members of the public. SCDC denied inmates with HIV jobs in the cafeteria and canteen, without justification.

The parties have agreed to resolve this lawsuit on mutually agreeable terms without further litigation, and will enter into a consent decree (pending court approval). As part of this settlement agreement, SCDC has agreed not to exclude or discriminate any inmate with HIV in SCDC's services, programs, or activities, including housing, classification, security, visitation, drug treatment rehabilitation, work release, pre-release for post-incarceration transition and potential employment, opportunities for work credits, work opportunities, food service jobs, psychiatric care, and hardship transfers. SCDC agreed not to impose eligibility criteria that screen out or tend to screen out otherwise qualified inmates with HIV from participating in services, programs, and activities. SCDC also agreed to integrate and make reasonable accommodations in SCDC policies, practices, and procedures to avoid discrimination on the basis of disability. SCDC cannot deprive otherwise qualified inmates with HIV of visitation with family members by placing such inmates in distant facilities where they would not otherwise be housed.

Finally, SCDC agreed to adopt a new set of written policies, practices, procedures, and educational programs including policies of nondiscrimination on the basis of HIV and disability. The nondiscrimination policies are attached as exhibits to the consent decree. To monitor compliance and enforcement with the consent decree, SCDC will submit written status reports to the federal government for the next five years. The federal government's lawsuit against SCDC is settled with this consent decree.