Legal Advocates Support Philadelphia Family Seeking Justice for Son Allegedly Killed by Prison Guards

By Evelyne Kane

Online exclusive for Prison Health News

On November 11, 2019, Tyrone Briggs died at the age of 29 while incarcerated at State Correctional Institution Mahanoy, a 1,000-cell, all-male, medium-security correctional facility located in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. Shortly after, 13 of Mahanoy’s medical and security staff were suspended, pending the outcome of an investigation into Briggs’ death. In a press release, Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections (DOC) Secretary John Wetzel promised that “whatever the outcome of this case, we are going to be as transparent as possible, and the DOC will take whatever remedial measures deemed to be necessary.” Despite this promise, additional details about the cause of Briggs’ death have been slow to follow. Reports from other individuals incarcerated at Mahanoy, including a prisonradio.org podcast from Mumia Abu-Jamal, have attributed Briggs’ death to the excessive use of oleoresin capsicum (OC), or “pepper spray.” In accounts from witnesses inside Mahanoy, it is believed that guards responded to an altercation between Briggs and another inmate by spraying the two men with OC. They subsequently tackled Briggs to the ground, held him down, and continued to OC-spray him. Briggs was heard to say, “I can’t breathe,” several times during the incident, and it is believed that these were his last words. Continue reading “Legal Advocates Support Philadelphia Family Seeking Justice for Son Allegedly Killed by Prison Guards”

Good News Comes Slowly on Access to Hepatitis C Medications

By Suzy Subways

From PHN Issue 39, Winter/Spring 2019

Very few people in prison who are living with hepatitis C are getting medication to treat and cure it — only 3%, according to a Columbia University survey released last year. But this is changing, slowly. California passed a budget to treat 22,000 people living with hep C in prison. People in Indiana, Massachusetts, Colorado and Pennsylvania prisons won class-action lawsuit settlements requiring the states to provide treatment in prison for everyone with chronic hepatitis C. And lawsuits in many other states are ongoing. Continue reading “Good News Comes Slowly on Access to Hepatitis C Medications”

New Mail Rules in Pennsylvania May Spread Nationwide

By Suzy Subways

From PHN Issue 38, Fall 2018

On September 5th, after a 12-day lockdown of all 25 prisons in the state, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) made drastic permanent changes to mail and visits. The DOC claimed that dozens of guards had been exposed to synthetic drugs, and that the lockdown and new restrictions were intended to protect them. But no tests showed that the drugs were in the sick officers’ bodies. Toxicology experts and the medical directors of the hospital emergency rooms where the guards were taken told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the guards’ symptoms were consistent with anxiety. They called it a “mass psychogenic illness” — anxiety symptoms that can happen when groups of people share a contagious fear of being exposed to something, even though they haven’t been. No mailroom staff reported getting sick. Continue reading “New Mail Rules in Pennsylvania May Spread Nationwide”

The Hep C Jailhouse Lawyer’s Manual

By Mumia Abu-Jamal, with the assistance of the Abolitionist Law Center in Pittsburgh, PA

From PHN Issue 37, Summer 2018

This manual is designed to walk any person infected with hepatitis C through the obstacle courses erected by medical staff and prison officials who seek to deny or delay hepatitis C treatment which leads to a cure from the infection. Continue reading “The Hep C Jailhouse Lawyer’s Manual”

Getting and Keeping the Right Drugs You Need

By Ronald Leutwyler

From PHN Issue 36, Spring 2018

As a rule, prisons try to give you the cheapest medications they can. And if they do give you medications, you have a constant battle to keep them. Rather than cut some time off of your sentence, they cut your medications and healthcare, food menu, yard time, etc. As an indigent inmate for 17 years, constantly in debt and with no one in free society to help, I know exactly how exhausting it can be to battle for the right medications. One of the two things the state (any state) is afraid of is the existence of a paper trail that you can build and use against them in a court of law. Continue reading “Getting and Keeping the Right Drugs You Need”

California Begins to Allow Gender-Appropriate Clothing

By Fatima Malika Shabazz

From PHN Issue 35, Winter 2018

I have been fighting long and hard to get gender reassignment surgery here in California. There are now protocols in place for inmates in the California Department of Corrections to apply for surgery. I applied with the medical department for reassignment surgery, but I kept my civil action (lawsuit) open. I have not lost a major motion to date, so the outlook (at least for now) looks pretty good for negotiation. Continue reading “California Begins to Allow Gender-Appropriate Clothing”

There’s a Way to Eliminate Hepatitis C, but Is There a Will?

By Suzy Subways

From PHN Issue 35, Winter 2018

As many as four out of every ten people incarcerated in state prisons are living with hepatitis C, the US Department of Health and Human Services reports. But fewer than one out of every hundred people in prison living with chronic hepatitis C are getting treatment, according to Mandy Altman of the Hepatitis Education Project. Prisons are refusing to provide treatment even though there is now a cure. Drug companies have been allowed to set extremely high prices, because we live under a free-market economic system, and states lack the money to pay. Continue reading “There’s a Way to Eliminate Hepatitis C, but Is There a Will?”

How I’ve Protected My HIV Health

By Timothy Hinkhouse

From PHN Issue 31, Winter 2017

I have been going back in time with my thoughts to when I was newly diagnosed with HIV in 1990. Some serious thought has been put into how I’ve managed to live this long, so many years beyond the original expiration date given by the doctor who broke the news to me. I was 19 when I was told of my HIV diagnosis. With the lack of medications and knowledge of how to manage this disease, I was going to die before I was 22 years old. So I was told. Continue reading “How I’ve Protected My HIV Health”

How to Write a Successful Grievance

by Mrs. Ge Ge

From PHN Issue 31, Winter 2017

Most of what I will be talking about is based on Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) policy. But this information might be useful in other states. Whenever you need to write a grievance, you should first review the policy in your facility regarding grievances. In Pennsylvania (PA), that policy is DC-ADM 804. Remember that not all grievances are winners, so it is important to find any case law that is similar to your situation to use in the grievance. Continue reading “How to Write a Successful Grievance”

Getting Treatment for Hepatitis C

by Suzy Subways

From PHN Issue 30, Fall 2016

Hepatitis C attacks the liver and can be deadly, but new medications can cure it in almost all cases. Hep C is common in prison. But most prisons don’t even test people to find out if they have the disease, let alone provide medication to cure it. Drug companies have been allowed to set an extremely high price for the new drugs (also called “the cure”), because we live under a free-market economic system. Prisons are not willing to pay up. Continue reading “Getting Treatment for Hepatitis C”