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Corrections expands HIV/AIDS re-entry program to all inmates

MONTGOMERY (AP) — The Department of Corrections is expanding its re-entry program for inmates with HIV/AIDS to the entire prison population in hopes of reducing the number of inmates who commit new crimes after they’re released.

Nearly all infected inmates receive transition services through the Alabama Prison Initiative up to three months before their probation, parole or end of sentence dates, but only minimal aid is available for the other inmates and services vary from prison to prison depending on resources in each area.

Elana Parker, director of Special Projects and Program Collaboration for the Alabama Department of Public Health, has worked with HIV/AIDS inmates for about seven years and will join DOC for two years to design and implement the new program.

The Alabama Prison Initiative is a joint venture between the state health and corrections departments and currently serves the 23 women and 250 men who are incarcerated with HIV/AIDS in Alabama, she said.

“What we’re looking at doing is taking that model and expanding that to the general population and making this something that involves more community organizations as well as other agencies and faith-based groups,” said Parker, who began her two-year DOC stint last week.

Parker, who will serve as DOC’s Re-Entry Coordinator/Public Health Liaison, said the department is still figuring out how much the expanded program will cost. A start date hasn’t been set, but it could begin as early as this fall, she said.

Prisons Commissioner Richard Allen said retired social workers might be hired to work in the program which officials expect to cut down on recidivism rates.

“The more support they have that first year when they’re out, the less likely they are to come back,” he said. “We’ve got the AIDS people in pretty good shape right now, we’ve just got to take care of the rest of the population.”

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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