May 12, 2017

May 12, 2017
Contact:  Mae C. Quinn (MJC)
                                                                                                   Daniela Velázquez (ACLU)


ACLU of MO and MJC-STL Convince Court that Clients Deserve Day in Court

A judge has rejected arguments made by the Missouri Department of Corrections seeking to throw out a lawsuit regarding the department’s inhumane treatment of inmates suffering from Hepatitis C. The MacArthur Justice Center in St. Louis and the ACLU of Missouri filed the lawsuit demanding potentially life-saving treatments on behalf incarcerated inmates. 
On Thursday, United States District Court Judge Nanette K. Laughery rejected a request made by the Missouri Department of Corrections seeking to dismiss the federal civil rights case against them.
“Missouri officials know there is a safe cure for the more than 5,000 inmates who have Hepatitis C,” said Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri. “The policy of providing treatment to no more than a dozen of those inmates not only sentences many of them to a painful death, but also results in the spreading of this deadly disease within Missouri prisons and, when inmates are released, communities across the state.”
Direct-acting antiviral drugs were approved by the Federal Drug Administration as a treatment for Hepatitis C several years ago.  When taken daily for a period of weeks, these drugs may entirely cure patients of Hepatitis C.  Yet the Missouri Department of Corrections and Corizon – the department’s medical provider – refuse to give these modern medications to thousands of infected inmates. 
Fewer than ten individuals have received direct-acting antiviral drugs treatments while in custody. As a result, inmates are dying from complications related to the Hepatitis C virus. Others are being released into the community, increasing the risk of the spread of the virus among the broader public.
“We are pleased that the case will proceed to the merits,” said Amy E. Breihan, staff attorney with the MacArthur Justice Center at St. Louis. “Missouri prison officials and medical staff are plainly more concerned about saving pennies than lives. But the court has rightfully indicated that defendants’ ‘wait and see’ approach to Hepatitis C treatment is arbitrary and unreasonable.”
The court further rejected arguments made by defendants that some of the inmates might not suffer serious adverse effects or die from Hepatitis C noting, “even if true, these facts do not justify as a matter of law defendants’ policy of categorically denying the proper treatment to inmates with chronic HCV [Hepatitis C] by imposing an arbitrary condition on that treatment unsupported by medical justification.”
(Read the decision below.)

The ACLU of Missouri preserves and expands the constitutional rights and civil liberties of all Missourians as guaranteed in the Missouri and U.S. Constitutions, with a focus on the Bill of Rights, the first ten Amendments.
The Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center (MJC) at St. Louis is a non-profit, public interest law firm that advocates criminal and juvenile justice system reforms. MJC was founded in 1985 by the family of J. Roderick MacArthur to advocate for human rights and social justice through litigation. The St. Louis office opened in the summer of 2016.  MJC also has offices in Chicago (at the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law), New Orleans, at the University of Mississippi Law School, and in Washington, D.C. 
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