Nunes, et al. v. UMass Correctional Health, et al., Civ. A. 10-12013-RWZ, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 143292 (D. Mass. Oct. 3, 2013)

Court and Agency Decisions and Orders (including case law)

Richard Nunes, plaintiff, brought this case on behalf of himself and other inmates, claiming that a newly enacted policy by UMass Correctional Health and the Massachusetts Department of Corrections, the defendants, which prohibited him from self-administering his HIV medication, violated his right to privacy, the Americans Disability Act (ADA) and the Eighth Amendment. Under this policy, “HIV-positive inmates [were required] to stand in line at the Health Services Unit to receive their medications.” Nunes alleged that this policy constituted cruel and unusual punishment and that it violated his right to privacy “because of the likelihood that his HIV status [would] be disclosed if he participate[d] in the medication line.” Nunes also alleged that the defendants denied him meaningful access to the prison’s medical services, in violation of the ADA.

The court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment – effectively deciding the case in the defendants’ favor – after finding that the “defendants . . . reasonably addressed [Nunes’s] burdens on assessing treatment under the new protocol” and that they “provided [Nunes] reasonable accommodations.” Though the court questioned whether Nunes actually had a right to privacy in this context, it stated that even if he had such a right it was “not violated because the new protocol is rationally connected to legitimate penological interests.” The court further reasoned that requiring inmates to stand in the medication line safeguards inmate health, since it allows prison medical staff to ensure that inmates “comply with their drug regimens.” For these reasons, the court found that the policy was not in violation of United States law.