“Prison health in an unhealthy place.”
It is at first blush somewhat odd to expect healthcare in a place where essentially no one really cares about you. Prisons are the slums of the state, for it is more often than not an abode of the poor and the dwelling place of the impoverished. Prisons rarely house the wealthy and, to a lesser degree, the same might be said of the healthy.
They are a social-political construction erected to provide recession-proof jobs to rural, depressed white communities. These communities in turn benefit from the plethora of jobs attracted by prisons not just in the realm of so-called security but healthcare as well. It should therefore surprise no one that the healthcare provided is of substantially lower quality than the poor healthcare provided to poor communities and in working class neighborhoods.
One of the most significant challenges facing both prisoners and freed communities is Hepatitis C which causes liver damage and related illnesses. While Hep C is actually curable, the cost of antiviral drugs is prohibited. The going market price for these drugs is about $1,000 a pill or about $90,000 for a full daily regimen of, let’s say, 8 to 12 weeks. Who can afford that, free or in prison?
But health, like any other social good, comes through struggle. There have been legal attacks, yes, protests and public calls for making these drugs available. Some have prevailed. Others have not. The struggle continues across the country.
Thank you for your time. From imprisoned nation, this is Mumia Abu-Jamal.
These commentaries are recorded by Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio.