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State Ordered to Treat Inmate for Hepatitis C

What Is the Background Story?

Mumia Abu-Jamal (aka Wesley Cook) was a member of the Black Panthers Party (a socialist movement in the United States from 1966-1982) and is an American citizen who is currently serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for the 1981 murder of a Philadelphia police officer named Daniel Faulkner. In 1981, Officer Falkner conducted a traffic stop of Abu-Jamal’s brother William Cook. Shortly thereafter, Abu-Jamal was found with a bullet wound from Falkner’s gun and Falkner was dead, due to a bullet wound from Abu-Jamal’s gun. Though Abu-Jamal claimed innocence, he was convicted of the officer’s death and sentenced to die. Thirty years later, an appeal filed by Abu-Jamal was partially successful; the conviction was kept but the sentence was vacated. He was resentenced to life in prison without parole. Many claim that Abu-Jamal is innocent and was put into prison due to his connection with the Black Panthers, though others claim his conviction was just. During his life in prison, Abu-Jamal has become a radio personality and a published writer. He has remained a controversial figure in American history and within the prison system.

In 2015, Abu-Jamal went into a diabetic shock and was diagnosed with active hepatitis C. He attorneys filed a lawsuit against the state of Pennsylvania, claiming that he was not given proper medical care for these life-threatening conditions. This led to a 2017 decision by a federal judge to begin providing Abu-Jamal with medical care both for his diabetes and to cure his hepatitis C.

Why Is Abu-Jamal’s Treatment Big News?

The decision that an inmate must receive proper medical care to treat and cure hepatitis C has now set a precedent regarding care of people in the prison system. Currently, it is estimated that more than 7,000 prison inmates in Pennsylvania alone have hepatitis C and, as many inmates are exposed to each other’s blood, that number may consistently increase if no treatment is provided. However, with proper treatment, they may all become cured of the virus and, if a testing and treatment protocols are implemented, it can create prison systems where there are no active cases of hepatitis C.

How Does This Impact Others?

For those currently incarcerated, this offers hope that they too will be able to file suit against their states in order to receive medical care for their hepatitis C diagnosis if the prison refuses treatment for them. For those living in America who are not incarcerated, this situation creates new opportunities for individuals and groups to appeal to insurance companies and to city and state officials to provide financial assistance or coverage options for those with hepatitis C who need treatment. Often, this treatment is difficult for those who are low income because the medication is incredibly expensive (treatment often costs more than $120,000). However, by arguing that inmates have access because denying them is considered cruel, attorneys may now be able to argue that insurance companies and federally funded government assistance programs cannot deny their clients access without breaking laws as well.

Although this is only one fight of many, the precedent set by the federal judge in order to ensure that Mumia Abu-Jamal receive hepatitis C medications provides hope for those who were previously suffering due to a lack of access to expensive yet crucial hepatitis C medications.1-4

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Jailed Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal Wins Hepatitis C Treatment. (2017). Retrieved 31 March 2017, from
  2. Rimer, S. (2001). Death Sentence Overturned In 1981 Killing of Officer. Retrieved 31 March 2017, from
  3. State ordered to provide hepatitis C drug to Mumia Abu-Jamal. (2017). AP News. Retrieved 31 March 2017, from
  4. State ordered to provide hepatitis C drug to Mumia Abu-Jamal. (2017). Star Tribune. Retrieved 31 March 2017, from


  • Justin case
    2 years ago

    If inmates are entitled to receive treatment for hep c then so should everyone else. Clearly it’s time for the insurance companies to step up. It’s expensive but still way cheaper than liver transplants and treating chirossis and way more humane. Come on insurance companies…do the right thing!

  • Kelly McNamara moderator
    2 years ago

    Hi Justin case,

    Thanks for the comment and for being a part of our community! Better access for all is so important!

    Thanks again,

    Kelly, Team Member

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