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ACLU and Colorado Department of Corrections Reach Historic Settlement to Treat All Colorado Prisoners with Hepatitis C

DENVER – Under a settlement finalized this morning, the Colorado Department of Corrections has agreed to spend $41 million over two years to treat prisoners with hepatitis C. The funding is expected to provide treatment to all of the 2,200 Colorado prisoners currently infected with chronic hepatitis C.

The settlement ends a class action lawsuit brought last year by ACLU of Colorado and its cooperating attorneys at Fox Rothschild LLP. The attorneys spent more than 1,200 hours over nearly three years to achieve this settlement, which is the first in the country to result in treatment for all of a state’s prisoners with chronic hepatitis C infection.

Under the terms of the settlement:

  • CDOC will spend $20.5 million this fiscal year (July 2018-June 2019) for the treatment of inmates with chronic hepatitis C infection.
  • CDOC will request and subsequently spend approximately $20.5 million in fiscal year 2019-20 to treat inmates with chronic hepatitis C infection.
  • CDOC will no longer require inmates to undergo drug or alcohol treatment as a precondition for treatment. In addition, treatment for chronic hepatitis C infection will not be refused as a result of any disciplinary violation.
  • CDOC will provide the ACLU of Colorado with quarterly reports through July 2020 concerning the prison population with chronic hepatitis C infection and those prisoners who have been treated.
  • CDOC will pay attorneys’ fees and costs in the amount of $175,000.

Statement from ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein:

“The funding and policy changes agreed to in this settlement will go a long way towards finally solving an immense public health crisis in Colorado’s prisons. The settlement brings our prison system in line with the community standard of medical care and the state’s obligations under the Constitution. Thousands of prisoners who were forced to suffer through needless barriers to treatment now have access to life-saving medication. This is a just and humane result that will save dollars in the long run.  Early detection and treatment can help stop the spread of the disease and eliminate higher medical costs down the line that come from forcing individuals to go untreated as the disease progresses. We know that this settlement will save lives here in Colorado, and we hope that it will be a model for other states as well.”

Statement from ACLU cooperating attorney Christopher Beall of Fox Rothschild LLP:

“It’s gratifying to achieve such a good result, not just for prisoners in Colorado who have been suffering with this disease for so long, but also to achieve a model for states across the country that face the exact same challenges that we see in Colorado. Prison populations across the country have significantly higher than average rates of hepatitis C infection, and being able to cure the infection in these populations will go a very long way toward reducing the public health risks for hepatitis C transmission across the country. Colorado’s bold step in agreeing to fund treatment for all prisoners is not only humane, and the right thing to do, it is also definitely a good thing from a public health perspective for the state as a whole.”

Statement from Tiffany Kaneta, daughter of Edward Kaneta, a plaintiff in the lawsuit who is now eligible to receive treatment:

“My dad went to prison when I was 6 years old. He was eligible for parole 18 years ago, after serving 20 years, but he has been denied over and over again. I don’t take my kids to see him, because I don’t want them to see their grandfather in that setting. For years, I’ve watched as he has suffered from the devastating impacts of hepatitis C, not knowing if he’d ever get access to a cure.  I’ve worried that, if he didn’t get treatment, my kids would never get to know their grandfather. Now that I know that he will have access to life-saving treatment, I am smiling from ear to ear. Without the ACLU advocating for him and others who are sick, this never would have happened. I have new hope now that my dad will get cured, get out, and finally get to play with his grandkids.”

RESOURCES:

See ACLU Lawsuit Seeks Life-Saving Treatment for Thousands of Colorado Prisoners Suffering from Hepatitis C

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The ACLU of Colorado is the state’s oldest civil rights organization, protecting and defending the civil rights of all Coloradans through litigation, education and advocacy.



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