South Carolina prisons will be required to test all current and future inmates for Hepatitis C as part of a class-action lawsuit settlement approved this week in federal court.
According to attorneys representing the plaintiffs, a federal judge gave preliminary approval to the partial settlement, which includes Hepatitis C testing for nearly 20,000 current inmates in the state Department of Corrections custody in addition to any future inmates.
The lawsuit was filed earlier this year. Attorneys argued the lack of testing violated the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Courts have previously ruled inmates have a constitutional right to appropriate and timely medical treatment.
34-year-old inmate Russell Geissler, originally of Greenville, filed the lawsuit. He was diagnosed with Hepatitis C while in state custody in January 2014 after having his blood tested for an unrelated health issue. The lawsuit says that the prison system denied every one of his requests for treatment and he has exhausted all available administrative remedies.
The settlement does not waive personal injury claims and the litigation will go forward with regard to claims for the treatment of Hepatitis C.
National statistics show that nearly 17 percent of nation’s inmate population has Hepatitis C, which can lead to death if untreated. There are several medications that will treat and cure the condition.
Another hearing on the case is scheduled in February.