Incarceration Nation

Hepatitis C Treatment Denied for Mumia Abu-Jamal

Federal court finds Pennsylvania Department of Corrections hepatitis C protocol unconstitutional but denies injunction

By Rachel Wolkenstein

In mid-2015 Mumia Abu-Jamal filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania that the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) provide him with life-saving medication to cure his hepatitis C. (Abu-Jamal v. Kerestes, et al., 15 Civ. 0967.)

On August 31, 2016, United States District Court Judge Robert D. Mariani found that the DOC protocol for treating inmates with hepatitis C falls below constitutional standards in violation of the Eighth Amendment. His Conclusions of Law state: “Plaintiff has chronic hepatitis C. The standard of care with respect to the treatment of chronic hepatitis C is the administration of newly-developed DM medications, such as Harvoni, Sovaldi, and Viekira Pak.”

Yet Judge Mariani denied Mumia’s request for a preliminary injunction on the ground that the individuals currently being sued, the Warden of SCI Mahanoy, the Director of Health Care for the DOC, the Director of Health Care at SCI Mahanoy, and various medical staff would not have the authority to carry out the treatment. Judge Mariani held that the proper individuals to sue were the members of the DOC’s hepatitis C committee—an entity whose existence was unknown until near the end of the December 2015 evidentiary hearing. On this basis the Court denied Mumia treatment.

Mumia’s attorneys, Robert Boyle and Bret Grote of the Abolitionist Law Center are preparing additional legal pleadings to compel Judge Mariani to apply to Mumia his holding that the standard of care for treatment of those with active Hepatitis C is treatment with the new anti-viral medications.