Money Matters - Simplified

Northampton County convicts indict prison over MRSA infection

Northampton, January 25: Around 30 of the former as well as present inmates of the Northampton County Prison are taking legal action against the jail and its health-care provider in federal court, after they contracted MRSA infections, thanks to the terribly dirty conditions in the prison coupled with absence of adequate cure.

By now, 6 court cases have been reported in U.S. District Court, Allentown. These include a lawsuit by Troy Miller, a convict of the state prison; Anthony Fernandez and Eric Hockin, presently Northampton County inmates; Benjamin Whitmore from Center Valley; and Michael Peterson and Ronald Holota Jr. of Allentown and Bethlehem respectively.

They all alleged that they got methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus during the time they were in the Easton prison.

In their complaints, the inmates have mentioned how water leaks, dirty showers and blankets, unhygienic cells, and lack of fresh air have turned the prison into a hotbed of illness since 2005.

The lawsuits say that the prisoners cultivated skin boils. When these were drained of pus, the holes left permanent scars on their skin.

As per suits filed by attorney Gerald J. Williams in Philadelphia “Mattresses that had been defecated and urinated on were not cleaned or changed between inmates, and instead were quite often left in place for the next inmate’s use.”

The suit also states how the prison staff would ridicule the infected inmates by calling them “MRSA-naries”.

The defendants as named by the suit are- Prime Care Medical Inc., Harrisburg; and Corrections director, Todd Buskirk.

Prison officials had confirmed the MRSA outbreak way back in 2005. Gerald R. Schaffer Jr. of Hellertown and a former prisoner was the first to file a lawsuit in 2005.

As of now, no date has been fixed for the trial. Williams told that both sides of the case are in the discovery stage even now.

Williams anticipates an increase in the number of lawsuits filed in support of the prisoners over the next few weeks.

He thinks that the infection is far from over and inmates are still getting MRSA. He said, “There’s been some improvement, but there are still improvements to be made.”

What deserves a mention here is that 2 former Bucks County prisoners had acquired a $1.2 million jury award in 2005 after alleging they had to bear a MRSA outbreak in the prison.