Prison Radio
Mumia Abu-Jamal

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2016, a man in Pennsylvania’s prison at Albion awoke in the grip of excruciating pain.

Dennis ‘Solo’ McKeithan put in a Sick Call slip, and when a duty nurse appeared at his cell door, he exclaimed, “My God! What happened?”

Solo told the nurse that he awoke that way; with a swollen face, his right eye shut. He also said his face was discolored, and pinkish!

That’s especially disturbing because Solo is a Black man, with skin the color of coffee.

Solo said the male nurse told him he thought he knew what Solo was suffering from, but he wouldn’t say. A doctor was needed.

A Physician’s Assistant (or PA) was called, who, taking one look at his face, ordered him sent to a medical facility, where he was given an IV line, and treated for shingles, a nervous disorder that causes unbearable pain. Prescribed an antiviral medication, Solo, once returned to Albion, put in a Sick Call slip for the prison’s Dr. José Boggio.

On Sept. 29, 2016, Solo said the following encounter took place:

“He [Dr. Boggio] came to my door, he say, ‘I’m Dr. Boggio’, so I’m trying to tell him what’s wrong with me. ‘Oh’, he say, ‘Oh, that’s nothing! You need– you need to win the lottery!’ I said, Lottery? I said, ‘What’s wrong with you, man?’ He said, ‘I’m from–I’m from South America. I seen all kinds of stuff!’ I say, ‘What do that got to do with me?'” [_McKeithan v. Clark, Supt., (Notes of Testimony, p.16].

Solo, disgusted with such a response, turned off his cell light, and walked away from the man. Dr. Boggio responded by ordering no more treatment for McKeithan.

In Jan. 2017, Solo, a jailhouse lawyer, filed a Motion for a Preliminary Injunction in the Erie County Court of Common Pleas. On Jan. 17, 2017, a preliminary injunction hearing was held, where Solo testified and also conducted examination of several prison and medical staffers.

The Judge, John Garhart, conducted the hearing and announced he believed that medical diagnosis and treatment, standing outside a locked prison cell door couldn’t be considered a real examination.

At hearing’s end, he issued an injunction, and ordered Solo to be treated by two outside doctors–outside of the prison.

One had to be an internist to examine his shingles.

Solo, jailhouse lawyer, had won.