Prison Radio
Mumia Abu-Jamal

For those who are familiar with this writer’s work, the name Dennis ‘Solo’ McKeithan should come as no surprise, for it surfaced in my first book (Live From Death Row), and also was a subject of a recent commentary on how a jailhouse lawyer (Solo) rumbled for – and won! – better health care for his debilitating case of shingles.

Solo fought in a civil action filed in the Court of Common Pleas (Erie County, PA), which was a revelation of the abysmal state of health care for prisoners in that northwestern Pennsylvania prison.

He describe how the prison’s primary health care official,(a Dr. Boggio) literally laughed in his face when he sought treatment for shingles that burned down a side of his face. According to Solo’s sworn testimony, when Dr. Boggio appeared at his cell door, he took one look at him, and exclaimed, “Oh, that’s nothing….I’m from South America, I seen all kinds of stuff” (McKeithan, p.16, Notes of Testimony)

In that case, there was a remarkable discussion about the contract entered into between the private ‘health care’ business and the DOC, begun by Judge John Garhart and DOC staff:

THE COURT…. I have a question about it, am I correct that Pennsylvania pays a flat fee to the company that provides medical services? So that any savings in medication, anything not given, affects the medical company’s bottom line?

THE WITNESS: [Ms. Jeri Smock, Health Care Administrator, Albion prison]: Do you—-

THE COURT: They get X number of dollars to treat inmates, and so the incentives for them to treat or not to treat relate directly to their bottom line.

THE WITNESS: I don’t believe so, Your Honor.

THE COURT: That’s my understanding, that this is a contract between the state and the medical company. If it’s not -because it strikes right at the heart of this. Is the doctor interested in providing care or does all the care he provides, including the medicine, come out of the profits of his corporation? That lays pregnant in this case. {At this point a lawyer for Dr. Boggio interjects into the discussion, one David J. Rosenberg, and represents to the Court that the state, not the corporation, pays the cost of all medications, which seems to confuse the Judge. For example}:

MR. ROSENBERG: [T]here’s a lot of different companies and I’ve seen different contracts and it’s spelled out in the contract. Certain things are the responsibility of the state, and certain things are the responsibility of the provider. So, in this particular case I…I couldn’t tell you. {McKeithan v. Clark, et all, C.C.P., Erie County., Garhart, J. (1/17/17), Preliminary Injunction/Habeas Corpus hearing. No. 10027-2017}

“I couldn’t tell you.” Query: If you’re a private company – even a ‘health care’ company — do you sign contracts to lose money -or to make more money? This isn’t a rhetorical question. It is a logical one, driven by the laws of Capital.

These prison-related ‘health care’ companies have the same drives as any other company -with the prisoners the losers. These companies (yes, like Correct Care Services, Inc.), are in business to make more money, and more money, and More Money, by providing less care for those damned to be under their rapacious claws. ‘.s. – Not to Solo: Check out the Contract, like a good Jailhouse Lawyer should!