by Kelsey Weymouth-Little
On Aug. 3, 2015, political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal’s lawyers filed an amended lawsuit suing Pennsylvania state prison staff for medical neglect.
Two days prior, Abu-Jamal was informed by prison medical staff that he has active Hepatitis C, which his outside doctors believe is the underlying cause of severe medical conditions – including a persistent full-body itching rash and open sores – from which Abu-Jamal has suffered for a year. Although Abu-Jamal tested positive for Hepatitis C in 2012, prison officials refused to conduct further testing to determine the viral load in his system and only performed the testing recently under repeated pressure from Abu-Jamal’s lawyers and doctors. The prison is currently refusing to provide Abu-Jamal with any treatment for Hepatitis C.
Abu-Jamal’s year-long health crisis nearly became fatal on March 30, 2015, when he was rushed to Schuylkill Medical Center – unconscious, with life threatening blood sugar levels and in renal failure. Although prison medical staff had been aware for several weeks of Abu-Jamal’s elevated glucose levels, they provided no treatment and didn’t even inform Abu-Jamal of his condition.
Prison officials’ refusal to offer testing and treatment for Abu-Jamal has resulted in severe symptoms that have persisted for months past his initial hospitalization – a full body rash and open sores, lower body swelling and even a fever that lasted for over 10 days.
After Abu-Jamal was denied all visitation while hospitalized for a second time in May 2015, at Geisinger Medical Center, Abu-Jamal’s lawyers – Bret Grote of the Abolitionist Law Center and co-counsel Bob Boyle – filed a lawsuit in early June 2015, demanding that Abu-Jamal have access to his family, doctors and lawyers while hospitalized. This lawsuit, Abu-Jamal v. Kerestes, remains active, and today his lawyers are amending the lawsuit to include medical neglect. They are demanding that the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections treat Abu-Jamal’s Hepatitis C.
Abu-Jamal is one of thousands of prisoners in the United States with Hepatitis C, and virtually none are given any treatment for it. In the past two months, prisoners with Hepatitis C in Minnesota, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania have filed civil action suits demanding treatment. New anti-viral medications have had over 95 percent success in curing Hepatitis C; however, the drugs cost close to $100,000 in the U.S. due to pharmaceutical companies’ monopoly pricing.
Prison Radio, the San Francisco based non-profit that records Abu-Jamal’s radio commentaries, is calling for supporters worldwide to join the demand for his medical care by going here.
They are also calling for mass phone calls into the state and prison at the following contacts:
- Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel: 717-728-2573, email@example.com, com/pages/Pennsylvania-Department-of-Corrections/489067241105682, twitter.com/PAstateprisons, 1920 Technology Parkway, Mechanicsburg, PA 17050
- Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, 717-787-2500, 717-772-8284 (fax), www.governor.pa.gov/contact (e-mail form), com/governorwolf, twitter.com/governortomwolf, 508 Main Capitol Building, Harrisburg, PA 17120
- Superintendent SCI Mahanoy John Kerestes, 570-773-2158 ext. 8102, 301 Morea Road, Frackville, PA 17932
- Correct Care Solutions founder Jerry Boyle, 800-592-2974 ext. 5710, firstname.lastname@example.org, 1283 Murfreesboro Rd, Suite 500, Nashville, TN 37217
Kelsey Weymouth-Little of Prison Radio can be reached at email@example.com.
Mumia Abu-Jamal files suit over prison’s refusal to provide necessary medical care
by Bret Grote
Attorneys for political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal filed an amended lawsuit today in the Middle District of Pennsylvania federal court to challenge prison medical staff’s denial of necessary medical treatment – denial that nearly killed Abu-Jamal earlier this year.
On March 30, 2015, Abu-Jamal was rushed to the hospital after losing consciousness and going into diabetic shock. Although prison medical staff were aware that Abu-Jamal had a dangerously high blood glucose level of 419 on March 6, they failed to treat, monitor or even inform Abu-Jamal of his condition. Glucose levels like those that Abu-Jamal had can result in diabetic shock, diabetic coma and death.
Abu-Jamal’s diabetic shock came in the midst of an escalating year-long health crisis that began with a rash in August 2014. The skin condition grew in intensity over the course of the next several months, eventually covering most of his body with a painful, severe rash that is resistant to conventional treatments. The skin condition is abnormal in its duration and intensity and has led to lesions, open wounds and swelling.
The lawsuit filed today seeks injunctive relief for prison medical staff’s failure to treat Abu-Jamal’s active Hepatitis C. Recent blood tests provided at the insistence of Abu-Jamal, his lawyers and consulting doctors have confirmed that Abu-Jamal has active Hepatitis C, which is likely the underlying cause of his health crisis. Despite the undeniable medical evidence that he is in need of treatment for his Hepatitis C, prison medical staff are refusing to provide any.
Advances in Hepatitis C treatment in recent years have revolutionized the way the disease is treated, with new direct-acting anti-viral medications that have had over 95 percent success rates in curing the illness in clinical trials. The medications, however, are extraordinarily expensive in the United States due to monopoly pricing practices by the pharmaceutical companies that have patented them.
The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections has yet to promulgate a new protocol for treating Hepatitis C with the new medications, meaning that the estimated 10,000-plus people in Department of Corrections custody who have Hepatitis C are not receiving any treatment.
This issue is the subject of a class action lawsuit filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania federal court in June 2015.
Abu-Jamal is represented by Bret Grote of the Abolitionist Law Center and Robert J. Boyle of New York City.
Contact Bret Grote at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-654-9070.