A special AIDS cellblock at the Maryland State Penitentiary in Jessup has been closed by corrections officials after a request from the inmates, who complained that they were isolated from prison life.
Inmates living in the 10-cell ward, which was created in August 1989, complained in a federal lawsuit that the unit had become a prison within a prison and asked that it be closed. The inmates said they were denied access to educational, vocational and work opportunities provided to inmates in the general population.
The unit was closed Nov. 1 after negotiations with state officials, and the 12 inmates were placed in other prisons across the state, corrections spokesman Greg Shipley said.
"Their primary concern was the absence of any meaningful programs," said Joseph Young, a lawyer appointed by the federal court to represent prisoners with AIDS. "They were restless. They were upset. They were depressed."
Shipley said the wardens of the institutions receiving the inmates were not notified about their medical conditions, but staff doctors had been told so they could provide them with appropriate treatment.
"All of them who moved, if they require additional treatment, they will be treated regionally in a Division of Correction facility or at a hospital if necessary," he said. "These people will not be put out there and forgotten. They will be monitored and medical treatment will be available to them if necessary."
The decision to close the unit is expected to be discussed at a Dec. 7 hearing on another lawsuit concerning the state's policies regarding the handling and treatment of prisoners with AIDS. That suit was filed by inmates seeking mandatory AIDS testing of prisoners to determine whether they and others are at risk.
Susan Gauvey, the attorney for that group of prisoners, said she is happy the unit was closed. "The inmates weren't given any special medical care," she said. "They were just put there because nobody else wanted them."