5,000 inmates with hepatitis C sued Pa. prisons. Now, they’re on their way to getting treatment

November 20, 2018 | Samantha Melamed | The Philadelphia Inquirer

In 2013, a cure for hepatitis C — a chronic viral infection that, if untreated, can lead to fatal liver disease — was brought to market. But who would get the $100,000 lifesaving treatment? That's been a subject of political and legal battles ever since.

In May 2017, the Wolf administration announced that Pennsylvania would expand Medicaid coverage of the treatment to anyone with hepatitis C, instead of treating only those with signs of liver damage.

Now, through a legal settlement filed for approval Monday in federal court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, approximately 5,000 incarcerated Pennsylvanians who have hepatitis C would also have access to direct-acting antiviral drugs, which are effective in about 95 percent of cases.

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Press Release: Proposed Landmark Settlement Re: Treatment of Chronic Hepatitis C

November 19, 2018 | PA Institutional Law Project and David Rudovsky, Esq.

PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

PROPOSED LANDMARK SETTLEMENT ON ACCESS TO MEDICAL TREATMENT WOULD PROVIDE HIGHLY EFFECTIVE MEDICAL TREATMENT FOR PRISONERS WITH CHRONIC HEPATITIS C IN THE PENNSYLVANIA DOC

Contacts:
David Rudovsky, Esq.
: 215-925-4400, drudovsky@klrawphila.com
Su Ming Yeh, Esq. (PA Institutional Law Project): 215-925-2966, smyeh@pailp.org

Philadelphia, PA, November 19, 2018:

Plaintiffs’ counsel announced a proposed landmark settlement in a class action lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections that would provide much-needed medical treatment for thousands of prisoners with Chronic Hepatitis C.

“Chronic Hepatitis C is the most lethal of all viral illnesses in the United States. In its early stages, it can cause painful and debilitating conditions of fatigue; muscle, joint, and bone pain; and depression. Left untreated, the virus will eventually cause liver failure, high risks of liver cancer, and death. ‘The new DAA treatment is highly effective in curing the disease with a simple regimen of pills and without serious side effects,’ explained Su Ming Yeh, Deputy Director of the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project. ‘The health of thousands of prisoners will be improved now that they will have access to this potentially life-saving medication.’”

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Chimenti Hepatitis C Class Action Settlement

November 19, 2018 | Settlement Agreement and General Release

Please click HERE to access the Class Action Settlement in Salvatore Chimenti, et al. v. Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, et.al., regarding access to highly effective medication for treatment of chronic Hepatitis C.

Under pressure, Pa. prisons repeal restrictive book policy

November 2, 2018 | Samantha Melamed | The Philadelphia Inquirer

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections — which in September announced it would put a halt to book donation programs and mail-order books and publications — has revised its policy, allowing book orders to resume through a new centralized processing center.

"Everyone who got involved called Gov. Wolf, wrote letters, shared the story on social media — it was really public pressure, we believe, that led to the DOC updating their policy to allow us to again send books directly to inmates," said Jodi Lincoln, an organizer with Book 'Em, a book donation program based in Pittsburgh. "It's a good sign that our state system and elected representatives actually sometimes listen."

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Protesting DOC’s new book ban and mail scans - What qualifies as Prison Rights ?

October 20, 2018 | Cherri Gregg | Flashpoint on KYW Newsradio

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- This week on Flashpoint, host and KYW Newsradio Community Affairs reporter Cherri Gregg asks the burning questions about a recent policy change at the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. DOC officials have ordered that all inmate mail is to be sent to a processing facility, in Florida, where it is scanned and then photo copies are set to the prisoners. In recent weeks, protests in Philadelphia and Harrisburg are calling for Gov. Tom Wolf to reverse the policy. This week on Flashpoint we'll walk folks through the flames of the inmates’ rights. Su Ming Yeh, managing attorney at the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project, Dr. Brian O'Neill, criminal justice radio host and West Chester University associate professor, and Michael Wilson a former juvenile lifer who spent nearly 47 years behind bars discuss various aspects of the new policies.

Listen here (first 20 minutes of the program) →

Are Pa. prisons’ drug screenings plagued by false positives?

October 3, 2018 | Samantha Melamed | The Philadelphia Inquirer

J-Nae Kettoman doesn't care if she looks strange, scrubbing in like a surgeon with Dial soap brought from home, then snapping on latex gloves before lining up to enter the visiting room at State Correctional Institution Phoenix.

It's just part of the regimen that Kettoman, a Dauphin County resident who works for the commonwealth as a clerk-typist, has devised to avoid setting off the prison's ion mobility spectrometer — a device that analyzes swabs of every visitor's hands and pockets to detect trace levels of narcotics.

Some scour their photo IDs and car keys with soap and water in the bathroom off the prison lobby. Others keep a pristine set of clothing for prison visits in a Ziploc baggie. One woman skips her medication on days she goes to visit, because she's been told it could set off the ion scanner.

"We just were thinking: How can we get around touching anything else once we've washed our hands?" Kettoman, whose husband is serving 10 to 20 years, said of the ritual she and a friend developed after her second alarm earlier this year. A third strike would lead to a six-month suspension of her visiting privileges. "It's just nerve-racking."

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ACLU prepares to sue Pa. prisons over new mail policy

October 2, 2018 | Samantha Melamed | The Philadelphia Inquirer

Ever since the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections announced a new, unprecedented policy for handling legal mail — part of a wide-ranging crackdown meant to stanch the flow of drugs into state prisons — criminal and civil lawyers who represent inmates have been in panic mode.

Many, including staff lawyers with the Pennsylvania ACLU, the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project, and private firms, said they can no longer ethically send confidential documents to clients, given the potential for exposure in the DOC's new protocol. Before, staff opened legal mail in the presence of inmates, searched it for contraband and handed it over; now they photocopy it, still in the inmate's presence, pass on the copy, and preserve the original for 45 days.

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Concerned about new DOC policy, attorneys halt mail to PA inmates

September 19, 2018 | Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | WITF

(Harrisburg) -- A number of groups that provide legal assistance to inmates in Pennsylvania's state prisons have stopped mail correspondence with their clients.

They say they think the Department of Corrections' new protocols regarding legal mail could violate attorney-client privilege; if the policy isn't changed, they may sue.

In a letter to the department, the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Abolitionist Law Center, and the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project argued that the new mail policy--aimed to keep drugs out of prisons--violates inmates' rights.

Under the old rules, legal mail was given to incarcerated people directly.

Now it's photocopied, the inmate gets the copy, and the prison retains the original for 15 days.

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