PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Members of MOVE rallied outside of the Philadelphia Department of Health to protest a recent federal court ruling denying critical Hepatitis C treatment for former death row inmate Mumia Abu Jamal.
The ruling raises questions about inmate care.
“Nobody is immune to this kind of travesty of justice,” says Romona Africa, communications director for the MOVE Organization.
She joined concerned family and friends of Mumia Abu Jamal on Wednesday morning in a rally and press conference. The demonstration was made days after a federal district court judge denied Jamal access to critical treatment for his Hepatitis C.
Jamal, who had been in critical condition at one point for the disorder, sought access to one of the most effective antiviral treatment for the disorder, but DOC protocols required that he wait until the Hepatitis C was more advanced.
“They said he wasn’t sick enough,” says Africa.
The court found Pennsylvania’s Hepatitis C protocol unconstitutional, but refused to order treatment opining that he sued the wrong entity.
“I find it a little confusing,” says Su Ming Yeh, managing attorney for the Institutional Law Project.
She says thousands of Pennsylvania inmates have Hepatitis C, but the treatment costs upwards of $50,000 per inmate, more than the cost of care for a year. For that reason, she says, the DOC only administers the treatment on a limited basis:
“If you’re too sick, you don’t get it. If you’re not sick enough, you don’t get it. But the constitution requires that inmates receive adequate care.”
“Adequate care” must be equal to a community standard, says Yeh. She notes that inmates are different than patients who can choose their healthcare. Because they are in custody, the DOC administered care is their only option.
“It would be cruel to deny or delay care,” she says, “whatever their sentence is– they are not sentenced to death or poor health.”
Jamal’s supporters say they hope to raise awareness and will keep up the fight.
“We’re letting everybody know what’s going on,” says Africa, “we are not going to sit back and let this happen.”