Hepatitis C can be Cured — Let’s Make it Happen

By Frankie Snow and Suzy Subways

From PHN Issue 46, Spring/Summer 2021

Getting access to hepatitis C testing and treatment continues to be an unfair fight for those in prison. About one-third of people living with hep C in the U.S. are incarcerated, but most states don’t offer testing in prison to let people know if they have the hep C virus. You may need to ask for a hep C test—and then ask again to make sure you get your test results. Most people who have hep C don’t know it, so testing is very important. Sometimes the symptoms don’t show up until a person’s liver is badly damaged, which may be many years after they got the virus. Prison health officials often don’t want to test for hep C because they might have to pay for treatment if the test comes back positive. Everyone who has chronic hep C, meaning they’ve had it for more than six months, must be given medication.

Before COVID-19 came along, hep C was the No. 1 killer out of all the infectious diseases. But drug companies are allowed to set whatever price they want to charge for the medications to cure it, because we live in a society that values profit over people. The cost of treatment and money-minded politicians have meant that many corrections departments across the U.S. have refused to pay for the treatment to save people’s lives. The medications, which cure almost all cases of hep C, are called direct-acting antivirals (DAAs). The cost of DAAs is different from state to state, ranging from $10,000 to $30,000, according to Mandy Altman of the National Hepatitis Corrections Network.

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Increasing Self-Compassion

By Lorin Jackson and Lucy Gleysteen

From PHN Issue 45, Winter 2021

Many people are not fully aware of the ways in which their negative thoughts impact them throughout their day and in their lives. One of the reasons we experience negative thoughts are our past (or current) experiences with trauma. In other words, trauma can impact the way that we see and understand ourselves.

Some people who have experienced trauma, oppression, and/or abuse at a young age develop what is called a “negative internal voice.” This voice (or these internal “tapes”) might reveal themselves in the form of feelings of worthlessness, self-hatred, or hopelessness. Examples of negative thoughts can include recurring thoughts like, “I’m stupid,” “I’m a horrible person,” or, “No one will ever want to be close to me.”

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No One Should Die Alone

By Sheena King

From PHN Issue 45, Winter 2021

My name is Sheena King, and after 28 years of incarceration in a female facility, I have witnessed many women provide care for each other in various ways. We provided simple things for each other, such as throat lozenges and acetaminophen for a cold or flu, or ibuprofen for pain or injuries. We push wheelchairs for our sisters and help them up and down steps.

As a volunteer hospice worker, I can attest that there is nothing more rewarding, yet heartbreaking. I have never been more aware of my own aging body and mortality. There is a heaviness that settles over you and a keen awareness of the fear and loneliness of the woman lying in front of you. It breaks your heart but any sign of anguish from me would only increase her fear. You must just be. That is the sole purpose, to be with her, ease her loneliness and pray or read from a Holy Book if she wants you to. This isn’t about you.

For myself and other volunteers that I have spoken to, it is imperative to be spiritually connected to a Higher Source. For me, it is God. When I am not with my hospice patient, I pray for her, her family and for strength for myself so that I can be there for her as she needs me to be. When she dies, many of us cry and allow each other the space to talk. I will generally journal about the experience, read scripture, and meditate to re-center, re-orient myself.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t affected by each death. It’s something you don’t forget, but I do it because no one should die alone in a cold, uncaring prison infirmary

COVID-19 and Vaccination Update

By Lily H-A

From PHN Issue 46, Spring/Summer 2021

On February 27, 2021, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a third COVID-19 vaccine, developed by Johnson & Johnson (J&J, sometimes called “Janssen”) under the same shortened process as the other two currently approved vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna).

The J&J vaccine only requires one dose instead of two, and doesn’t need ultra-cold refrigeration, so it’s easier to distribute. It also uses slightly different technology from Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines. All three vaccines work by making the cells in your body produce harmless proteins that look like parts of the coronavirus, which teaches your immune system how to recognize and destroy the actual coronavirus if it enters your body. Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines use a messenger called mRNA to do this, while J&J’s uses a deactivated virus called an adenovirus. This deactivated virus cannot infect you, and is not the same as the coronavirus.

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Helping Others Helped Me

By John W. Dunn

From PHN Issue 45, Winter 2021

I walked into a unit and saw an inmate/patient that was being ignored. His name was Michael. He was paralyzed and refusing treatment and meals. Officer Threat-Johnson allowed me to feed him, and give him company. Michael became my friend. He started eating, gaining weight, and got better. He has since been sent to an outside institution.

That was my beginning. Now I only care for paralyzed, extremely ill, and mentally challenged inmates/patients.

This service of caring for others has a two-fold reward. I, too, receive healing in my spirit. I never knew I possessed this ability, and am happy to be of service. I have been trained in all areas of healing this prison has to offer.

I have always had a problem writing about myself. But I’d be nothing without the ability to assist the men here at CHCF.

This has to be the most rewarding experience in my life. If I should ever get out, I want to work with our wounded warriors. I personally believe I would be awesome at it.

COVID-19 Treatment Options

By Frankie Snow

From PHN Issue 45, Winter 2021

The Search for the Right Treatments

Over the past year, many types of medications have been studied and tested as possible treatments for COVID-19. Currently there are some that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on an emergency basis and some that have been shown to be effective but are still being studied. It’s important to get health information from trusted sources and talk with a doctor about what is best for your health needs if you are seeking treatment for COVID-19.

Many people catch COVID-19 but do not require treatment because they do not have symptoms. Others may be able to recover on their own, with basic care like rest, drinking enough water, and acetaminophen (Tylenol). Other cases become more severe and require further treatment. Reports from Prison Health News readers and journalists have indicated that prisons are not offering the same treatments available on the outside. The information in this article is being shared to help our readers know what treatments should be available to them. When filing a grievance or lawsuit, it may be helpful to specifically list what medications have not been offered. The following are different treatment options available outside prison, based on the severity of symptoms.

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Staying Safe in Prison During COVID-19

By The Prison Health News Advisory Board

From PHN Issue 45, Winter 2021

Prison Health News asked our Advisory Board members for suggestions on how people in prison can advocate for their safety during the pandemic. We’re very grateful for these responses, which we edited for length and clarity.

Try and stick together, because there are a lot of people fighting for you. I’m for sure one of them.

The first thing I thought of was having people join the lawsuits being represented by the ACLU. People can write to their state representatives and the health department about health violations related to COVID-19 and lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for inmates. I also would recommend consulting with the healthcare workers in the prison, because they could be allies in fighting for more PPE and better health conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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COVID-19 Vaccine Update

By Lily H-A

From PHN Issue 45, Winter 2021

There are two COVID-19 vaccines currently being used in the US as of late January. One is made by Pfizer-BioNTech and the other by Moderna. People understandably have a lot of questions about the vaccines and we will try to answer some of them here.

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Elevate Your Inmate Game: Building Habits to Help You Seize the Day

By Leo Cardez

From PHN Issue 45, Winter 2021

There’s a note on my planner that I update each year on my birthday with annual increasing numbers. On my 40th birthday, eight. On my 41st birthday, nine. And so forth. That number is how many healthy habits I live by. I add one new habit each year. This goal I set each year is a gift I give to myself. I might be getting older, but I am doing something that can help me live longer and makes me a better and happier person overall. My good habits have increased each year, often replacing old, bad habits. I love the idea of becoming a better version of myself. There may come a day when I won’t be able to adopt a new healthy habit. That felt all the more real this year with the COVID-19 pandemic. But I try to take this in
stride, realize it is about the journey, take a deep breath and try again… and then again. Sticking with new habits can be difficult, but it is all about taking one small step at a time and understanding that it is okay to fail, as long as you try again.

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Coping with Wildfires

By Frankie Snow

From PHN Issue 44, Fall 2020

While coping with multiple crises, many communities this year have also had to navigate wildfires threatening their safety. Wildfires occur when there is a large fire that spreads across forests, grasslands, or brush. Their spread can also impact towns and cities nearby. Wildfires can be caused by lightning or by accidents from campfires, fireworks, or electrical failures. Small fires can be a natural part of the life cycle for forests, and indigenous communities have practiced controlled burning to encourage new growth in forests for ages. Wildfires have become more prevalent and destructive due to droughts and warmer temperatures from climate change. In the western United States, residents in California, Washington, Oregon, and Colorado have had to evacuate or shelter from smoke due to a number of uncontrolled wildfires.

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