Philadelphia Inquirer Examines Spread of Hepatitis C in New Jersey, Pennsylvania Prisons
The Philadelphia Inquirer yesterday and today published several articles in a series on the spread of hepatitis C in New Jersey and Pennsylvania prisons. Summaries of the articles appear below:
- "N.J. Prisons Fail to Treat an Epidemic": In the first article in the series, the Inquirer reports on changes in hepatitis C treatment policy in New Jersey prisons. New Jersey prisons had "never treated anyone for hepatitis C," but prison officials have ordered a review of "how they handle patients with the disease." Although about 25% of U.S. prisoners have hepatitis C, New Jersey, which only tests for the virus at a prisoner's request, does not have statistics on the prevalence rate in the state's prison population. Among New Jersey's 24,000 prisoners, only one currently receives hepatitis C treatment (Fazlollah/Lin, Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/21).
- "How Ex-Inmates Spread the Virus": The article profiles Barbara Quinones, a former inmate in a New Jersey prison who has hepatitis C and who may have transmitted the virus to other prisoners through sharing needles (Fazlollah, Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/21).
- "High Cost of Treatment Falls on Taxpayers": The article examines the trend of inmates who do not receive treatment for hepatitis C in prison but who receive expensive, taxpayer-funded treatment for advanced stages of the disease after their release (Lin, Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/21).
- "N.J. Inmate Pleads for Help as Virus Destroys his Liver": The article profiles Danny Amos, a New Jersey prisoner who has written to health authorities, prison officials and lawmakers to ask for hepatitis C treatment (Fazlollah, Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/21).
- "Inmate's Work Bares Hepatitis C Epidemic": The article examines the case of Rob Lassen, an inmate in a Pittsburgh prison who learned that he had hepatitis C four years after being tested for the disease in a prison infirmary. Angered by the delay, Lassen "spearheaded" his own investigation into the hepatitis C epidemic in Pennsylvania prisons. The Inquirer reports that although Pennsylvania prisons, unlike the New Jersey system, were already "aggressively tackling" the epidemic, Lassen's investigation "added momentum" to the campaign (Lin/Fazlollah, Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/22).
- "Guards Worry About Their Own Risk": The article examines how Pennsylvania prison guards are concerned that the high prevalence of hepatitis C in state prisons -- 25% of inmates have the disease -- and the "bloody nature" of their jobs places them at risk because they do not often have time to take proper blood safety precautions when dealing with prisoners in altercations. The article also examines the case of Bob Feldman, a retired prison guard who is the only former prison officer to have won a judgment against the state after becoming infected with hepatitis C on the job (Lin, Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/22).