Justice Department Finds that Nevada Discriminates Against Inmates with HIV and Inmates with Other Disabilities
The Justice Department issued a letter of findings today concluding that the Nevada Department of Corrections’ (NDOC) policies and practices for housing and employing inmates with disabilities violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Following a comprehensive ADA compliance review, the department found that NDOC’s discriminatory practices have resulted in the illegal segregation and stigmatization of inmates with HIV and the incarceration of inmates with disabilities for longer periods, in more restrictive settings, than inmates without disabilities.
The department’s letter makes three principal findings. First, NDOC segregates inmates with HIV through a policy prohibiting the housing of inmates with HIV in the same cells as inmates who do not have HIV. Second, NDOC denies inmates with HIV equal employment opportunities. Third, NDOC denies inmates with various disabilities, including those with mobility disabilities, HIV or certain other medical or mental health conditions, equal opportunities to benefit from the programs offered at two of NDOC’s lowest-custody facilities –its conservation camps and transitional-housing facilities.
The department found that these discriminatory practices have the following effects:
- NDOC’s segregation of inmates with HIV stigmatizes them while indiscriminately disclosing their confidential HIV status to NDOC employees and inmates. This segregation policy is without any legitimate health justification, as leading public health and correctional authorities, including the National Commission on Correctional Health Care, oppose the routine segregation of inmates with HIV as medically unnecessary.
- Inmates who work in NDOC prisons, and those who are housed in conservation camps or transitional-housing facilities, can earn “work credits” to reduce the lengths of their sentences. By denying inmates with HIV equal employment opportunities, and by denying inmates with disabilities equal opportunities to benefit from the services, programs and activities available to inmates at conservation camps and transitional-housing facilities, NDOC deprives inmates with disabilities of equal opportunities to engage in productive activities and to accelerate their NDOC release dates.
- By denying inmates with disabilities equal opportunities to obtain placement at its lower-custody and lower-security facilities, NDOC confines them in more restrictive settings than they otherwise would be housed.
“The ADA’s promises of non-discriminatory treatment and equal opportunity apply to all people with disabilities, including inmates at correctional facilities,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “No inmate should have to stay in segregated housing because of a HIV diagnosis or serve a longer sentence because of a disability. 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.”
The department commends Nevada for its cooperation with this ADA compliance review and will continue to work closely with NDOC and Nevada’s Office of the Attorney General to resolve the department’s findings expeditiously and under mutually-agreeable terms.
To read the full findings letter, please visit www.ada.gov. For more information about the ADA, call the department’s toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (TDD 800-514-0383) or visit www.ada.gov.