PRESS RELEASE

For Immediate Release

Date: April 30, 2004

Contact:   NYCAHN Parolee Human Rights Project: Graziela Tanaka (917) 714-4666 / (718) 802-9540
Contact:   ACT UP/NY Harlem Workgroup: Emmaia Gelman (917) 517-3627

EX-INMATES, FAMILIES, AIDS ACTIVISTS STORM DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS OFFICE
In Harlem, challenge to State's denial of prison HIV care, refusal to let inmates use condoms

New York, NY: 100 AIDS activists, prison justice activists, recent releasees and Harlem community members staged a protest this morning at the Harlem State Office Building, home to the NYS Department of Correctional Services (DOCS). After demonstrating outside, activists poured into the office of DOCS Chief Medical Officer Lester Wright to deliver empty pill bottles -- representing DOCS' refusal to address the prison HIV and Hepatitis C epidemics -- demanding a change in prison policies.

Former inmates and activists from the NYCAHN Parolee Human Rights Project, ACT UP/NY and at least five other community organizations delivered the“dose of DOCS' own medicine.” Dr. Wright's staff, demonstrating a clear need for HIV education among Corrections staff, refused to touch the bottles or the accompanying “prescriptions” for addressing the prison epidemics, on the grounds that “they might be contaminated.” They refused protesters' requests to schedule an meeting with Dr. Wright.

Inmates report that healthcare services that are shoddy and seem to be provided or denied at random. In fact, prison policies explicitly deny access to prescribed HIV medications under a wide variety of circumstances, and flat-out deny Hepatitis C testing and treatment to many inmates, legal experts testified today, at a hearing on the same issues.

The empty pill bottles represent the enormous gaps in access to HIV medication, which often lead inmates to treatment failure, deteriorated health, and ultimately to death.

Some protesters also dressed as condoms, highlighting the fact that condoms are illegal in NY State prisons, under current DOCS regulations.

“With a stroke of the pen, Governor Pataki or DOCS Commisisoner Glen Goord could make condoms and HIV care accessible to 65,000 New Yorkers in state prisons,” said Louie Jones, a member of the NYC AIDS Housing Network. “Why won't they do it?”

“State prisons are filled with people from Harlem and the Bronx. 80% of prisoners are people of color, and the vast majority are poor. The communities they come home to are also underserved and disenfranchised. Could this have something to do with the Governor's indifference?” asked Joan Bark of the ACT UP/NY Harlem Workgroup.

The protest took place in conjunction with a State Assembly Health Committee and Corrections Committee hearing about prison HIV and Hep C care. The hearing will provide impetus for passing legislation mandating the Department of Health to take responsibility for prison health care, including intervention in the twin HIV and Hep C epidemics.

see also: www.nycahn.org




Previous Call To Endorse and Take Action.

Join ACT UP, a non partisan group focused on action, to discuss
HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C in New York State Prisons, at a public
hearing Friday April 30th at Harlem State Office Building @163 W.
125th St @ 10:30am. There will be a public demonstration held at
9:30am. We invite your community organizations to participate in
the demonstration by expressing your concerns about the rise of
HIV/AIDS in the NYS prison system and how this is affecting the
Harlem community. During the public hearing community members will
be able to share their thought, concerns and experience. Please,
take action. We must all take a stand against the
injustices occurring within the NYS prison system and the affects of
this on the Harlem community.

An upcoming planning meeting will be held on April 27th at 6:30p.m.
at St. Mary's Church in Harlem, 521 West 126th St. Organizations can
attend planning meetings or contact Amie at (515) 865-8404 or via
email at pennylane8001@hotmail.com to make an endorsement.

The following statement is outlining the severity of the HIV
epidemic occurring in NYS prisons as well as the Harlem community

The HIV/AIDS epidemic in New York State prisons needs immediate
attention. Between 1995 and 1999 the HIV infection rate in Federal
and State prisons rose from 1,500 to 25,757 according to the U.S.
Department of Justice. And as of 200,1 New York State has the
largest known infection rate of 7,000 people in prison.

Currently, people in prison are denied access to adequate and fair
health care in the prison system. There is a need for an increase
in education, prevention and treatment interventions to end the
growing threat of transmission within the prison system and the
community at large.

The current state of the NYS prison system is dangerous for people
in prison, as well as for society in general. People in prison are
at increased risk of contracting HIV and HCV while in prison, and
are then sent back into society knowing little about their disease
and how it is spread and treated.

HIV/AIDS is rapidly spreading through the Harlem community due to
the disproportionate numbers of people released from prison who re-
locate to the community. Join us as we work with Harlem community
members and Community Based Organizations to address this growing
crisis.

Ignoring the problem will simply cause it to worsen exponentially.
Steps must be taken now to prevent further loss of life. To endorse
this hearing or for more information please contact Amie at
(515) 865-8404 or via email at pennylane8001@hotmail.com.


download FLYERS >  english   español   français  (pdf)


SUCCESS!

NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY
NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING IN HARLEM
    BELOW

Friday, April 30, 2004, 10:30 AM
2nd Floor Art Gallery
New York State Office Building, 163 West 125th Street
New York, NY

Subject: Health Care in New York State Prisons


NY STATE PRISONS ARE KILLING INMATES WITH HIV/AIDS!

People in state custody are regularly denied HIV meds!
Prisoners aren't ALLOWED to use condoms! Inmates can't get a Hep C test!

PROTEST!
TESTIFY!                                                                              


NYS DOCS provides inadequate HIV & Hep C prevention and care to people in prison. It's killing inmates, and it hurts people both on the inside and the outside. Come out for legislation to make the Dept. of Health deal with the public health crisis in state prisons. AND legislation that would make condoms legal and available.

DEMONSTRATE!

FRIDAY, APRIL 30, 9:30am
Harlem State Office Bldg.
163 W. 125th St./Frederick Douglass
A,B,C,D Trains to 125th


Then go in and TESTIFY! at a state hearing about the reality of DOCS, HIV and Hep C in prisons.

For info:
(212) 831-1247 or toll-free (877) 615-5202            
 

download FLYERS >  english   español   français  (pdf)

Los prisoneros en las Carceles del Estado de New York se estan matando entre ellos con sida!

La gente del estado encargada niega regularmente los medicamentos
necessaries! Los prisoneros no tienen acceso el condones y aun
examen de hepatitis!

NYS DOCS Se reusa a ayudar en la prevencion y cvidado del sida y
hepatitis. Estos estan muriendo y es doloroso para lagente de
adentro como para la de afuera.

Ven para hacer que el departamento de Salud trate. La crisis de
salud dentro de las prisones y carceles del estado y haga legal la
distribucion y uso de condones.

Manifiestate! Vamos a testificoir para que el estado escuche. La
realidad de DOCS. Sida y hepatitis.

Niernes 30 Abril
9:30 am
Harlem State Office Building
163 W. 125th st.

Sponsors: ACT UP/NY, Latino Commission on AIDS, NYC AIDS Housing Network, Lesgislative Coalition on HIV & Hep C in Prisons, St. Mary's Episcopal Church; list in formation.




Join ACT UP, a non partisan group focused on action, as we discuss
HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C in New York State Prisons. All are welcome,
upcoming meetings will be held on April 20th and May 4th at 6:00
p.m. at St. Mary's Church in Harlem, 521 West 126th St. We also
encourage your presence at a public hearing on April 30th, 2004
regarding healthcare in the New York State prison system affecting
people in the prison system and community members.

The HIV/AIDS epidemic in New York State prisons needs immediate
attention. Between 1995 and 1999 the HIV infection rate in Federal
and State prisons rose from 1,500 to 25,757 according to the U.S.
Department of Justice. And as of 2001 New York State has the largest
known infection rate of 7,000 people.

Currently, people in prison are denied access to adequate and fair
health care in the prison system. There is a need for an increase in
education and prevention programs to end the growing threat of
transmission within the prison system and the community at large.

The current state of the NYS prison system is dangerous for people
in prison, as well as for society in general. People in prison are
at increased risk of contracting HIV and HCV while in prison, and
are then sent back into society knowing little about their disease
and how it is spread and treated. In this manner, the prison has
become a breeding ground for disease both inside and outside the
prison system.

HIV/AIDS is rapidly spreading through the Harlem community due to
the disproportionate numbers of people being released from prison
who re-locate to the community. Join us as we work with Harlem
community members and Community Based Organizations to address this
growing problem.

Ignoring the problem will simply cause it to worsen exponentially.
Steps must be taken now to prevent further loss of life. For more
information on our bi-monthly meetings, the up coming hearing or to
find out ways in which you can help, please contact, Judith
Silverstein, (914) 715-6363 or jls2113@columbia.edu .


 

SUCCESS: NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY
NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING IN HARLEM
    BELOW

Friday, April 30, 2004, 10:30 AM
2nd Floor Art Gallery
New York State Office Building, 163 West 125th Street
New York, NY



past advocacy to get Hearings held in Harlem

INMATES ARE DENIED HIV MEDS
INMATES CAN'T GET TESTED FOR HEP C
PRISONERS CAN'T USE CONDOMS

                GET MAD

PRISON INJUSTICES HURT HARLEM

Tell the State Assembly:
HOLD THE HEARING IN HARLEM!

Dear Assemblymember Powell, Wright, and Gottfried

In Harlem, the injustices of NY State prisons are magnified as our community members are disproportionately pulled into the prison system.

So the denial of basic HIV & Hep C care to inmates by DOCS hurts our community. Inmates spend their sentences under substandard prison care. They're denied testing and access to crucial meds, leading to treatment failure and ultimately, death. After release, ex-inmates and their home communities are left to deal with the ravages of unchecked HIV & Hep C, on top of other survival pressures.

DOCS has shown that it is unwilling and unable to provide adequate health care to New York State inmates. DOCS has deepened the AIDS and Hep C crisis and stymied prevention and treatment efforts.

The NYS Assembly Health Committee has planned an upcoming hearing on DOCS health care, and on DOH's responsibility in addressing this public health crisis. We urge you to demand: HOLD THE HEARING IN HARLEM, not way downtown and out of reach. Your constituents need a local, accessible chance to hold DOCS & DOH accountable, and to make change.


download postcards (pdf)    side A  and  side B


Dear Legislative Action Committee members,

As promised, here's the sign-on letter about the upcoming hearing on Dept. of Corrections health care and HIV & Hep C testing and treatment. We are making the request to Assemblymember Gottfried that the hearing be held in Harlem, as a location heavily impacted by HIV, HepC and prison issues but often left out of policy-making.

It's a friendly request, and an important one. The Health Committee is in the habit of holding hearings at 250 Broadway (by City Hall) and that's their default plan for this hearing. Basically, it's the easiest place for them to do it. But it's a hard place to bring community members, and this is a critical hearing that should be accessible.

Your organization can either SIGN ON to the letter ACT UP will send, or SEND IT YOURSELF, in which case you can edit, rewite etc. If you want to sign on, please e-mail lovebreak@earthlink.net or call 917-517-3627 by Tuesday at 3pm. It's important to make the request *before* the hearing logistics are finalized.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions!

Thanks, Emmaia Gelman, ACT UP/NY




Hon. Richard Gottfried
Chair, NYS Assembly Health Committee
242 West 27th Street
New York, NY 10001

CC: Hon. Adam Clayton Powell IV
107 East 116th Street
New York, NY 10029

Hon. Keith Wright
Harlem State Office Building
163 West 125th Street, Suite 920
New York, NY 10027

January 14, 2004

Dear Assemblymember Gottfried:

The NYS Assembly Health Committee hearing you are organizing for New York City, examining Department of Corrections (DOCS) health care policy and practice in New York State Prisons, is incredibly important. As an organization working to address the HIV/AIDS crisis and its impact on prisoners and related communities, we greatly appreciate your efforts to hold DOCS accountable.

It is essential that our constituents – local community members who are most directly impacted by HIV and prison issues – be involved in the process of hearing from DOCS and DOH, and in formulating the response to what we learn at the hearing. This is especially important since a central piece of prison, health care and other injustices is that policy-making often takes place in privileged circles and hallowed halls which are simply out of reach for many of those affected.

The Health Committee hearing is also an indispensable chance to pull more folks into the process – whether they testify, organize turnout or just attend the hearing. In that way, it can be a major boost to our efforts at building community participation in prison and health care justice demands.

In order to make it work, we ask that you hold the hearing in Harlem. Not only does it send a valuable message to bring DOCS and DOH officials to the communities they impact, but holding the hearing in the community is a much-needed gesture to local community members, and makes it vastly more accessible to local people for whom funds, travel-time, childcare etc. are severely limited.

Please let us know if we can help with the logistics of bringing the hearing to a Harlem location.

Thank you again for your pursuit of justice for people with HIV, prisoners and their home communities; and for your obvious commitment to building a grassroots base for HIV & prison justice demands.


Sincerely,


          
sign on e-mail lovebreak@earthlink.net  or call 917-517-3627



NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY
NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING


Committee on Health Committee on Correction
Richard N. Gottfried   Jeffrion Aubry
Chair                          Chair

Friday, April 30, 2004, 10:30 AM
2nd Floor Art Gallery
New York State Office Building, 163 West 125th Street
New York, NY

Subject: Health Care in New York State Prisons

Adequate health care for prison inmates is an essential component of the constitutional and public health responsibilities of the state and is good public health policy for all New Yorkers. New York State inmates suffer disproportionately from serious illness. Of the 65,800 inmates in the custody of the Department of Correctional Services (DOCS), approximately 9250 are infected with hepatitis C and more than 5,500 are HIV-infected.

Incarceration provides an occasion to test, treat and educate this population that has not had sufficient access to health care prior to incarceration, but has experienced high incidences of chronic diseases, mental illness and substance abuse problems. Each year, approximately 27,000 inmates return to the community. Providing essential medical care to these inmates is not only crucial to their well being, but also to their families, communities and the correctional staff with whom they come in contact.

Many advocates argue that health care in New York State prisons has major deficiencies, including: (a) the failure to provide inmates education about, and voluntarily testing for, chronic disease; (b) the failure to have sufficient numbers of adequately trained health professionals who have the expertise to care for the inmates with chronic diseases; (c) the failure to have access to specialists to treat these patients; (d) the failure to prescribe needed therapy for patients with chronic diseases; (e) the failure to have a chronic disease program to monitor and treat state inmates with these illnesses; (f) the failure to have an adequate quality assurance program in DOCS to monitor the care being provided; and (g) the failure to ensure continuity of care as inmate patients are transferred from one prison to another or are released to the community.

Prisons are insulated from general public scrutiny. Unlike almost all other health care providers, prison health facilities are not subject to the oversight or authority of any health agency. The NYS Department of Health (DOH) does not systematically review medical care in DOCS facilities, asserting that DOCS facilities are exempt from DOH jurisdiction under Article 28 of the Public Health Law. However, in 1992 DOH performed a limited audit of DOCS health care at twelve prisons and found significant deficiencies in care. No follow-up to that review has occurred despite the assertions in a 1994 Memorandum of Understanding between DOH and DOCS that DOH would perform additional review of DOCS health care at the original twelve facilities and at other state prisons.

Assembly Members Gottfried and Aubry have introduced bills to require DOH to review DOCS policies and practices regarding HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C care (A. 4204; S. 1840, Mendez); to include health facilities (clinics, infirmaries, hospitals) in DOCS and local correctional facilities under Article 28 of the Public Health Law, which apply to all other hospitals and clinics (A. 3692; S. 3898, Duane); and to require the Corrections Commissioner to develop and implement programs for employees and inmates in each correctional facility to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and human immunodeficiency virus infection (A. 3940-A; S. 2082, Duane).

Persons wishing to attend or present testimony at this hearing should complete and return the reply form as soon as possible, but no later than Friday, April 23. Testimony is by invitation only. It is important that the form be fully completed and returned so that persons may be notified in the event of emergency postponement or cancellation of the hearing.

Oral testimony will be limited to ten minutes in duration. All testimony is under oath. In preparing the order of witness, the Committee will attempt to accommodate individual requests to speak at particular times in view of special circumstances. This request should be made on the attached reply form or communicated to Committee staff as soon as possible. Ten copies of any prepared statement should be submitted at the hearing registration table.

In order to meet the need of those who may have a disability, the New York State Assembly, in accordance with its policy of non-discrimination on the basis of disability, as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), has made its facilities and services available to all individuals with disabilities. For individuals with disabilities, accommodations will be provided, upon reasonable request, to afford such individuals access and admission to Assembly facilities and activities.

Questions regarding this hearing may be directed to Michael Rabinowitz of the Assembly Health Committee staff at 518-455-4941.

------------------------------------------------------

Health Care in New York State Prisons
PUBLIC HEARING REPLY FORM – RESPOND BY FRIDAY, APRIL 23


subscribe to
  email list for announcements and actions: ACTUP_and_Harlem-subscribe@yahoogroups.com


The joint meetings of the ACTUP Harlem Outreach/Prison Committee will
continue at St. Mary's church, 521 West 126th St.


           see information on ACT UP Harlem Meetings





see more on New York State Prison Issues



use back button on browser to return