COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A federal judge granted preliminary approval Tuesday of a proposed settlement mandating testing and treatment for hepatitis C of all inmates in South Carolina correction facilities.
Plaintiffs Russell Geissler, Bernard Bagley and Willie James Jackson filed a lawsuit in 2017 against the Department of Corrections over a lack of treatment for hepatitis C. A proposed class-action settlement was submitted after the lawsuit was filed.
“This is a major step toward eliminating a point source for hepatitis C,” class counsel Reuben Guttman, with the law firm Guttman, Buschner & Brooks, said in a press release.
Judge Margaret Seymour gave the proposed settlement the preliminary approval, news outlets reported.
Identifying and treating inmates with hepatitis C will cost between $4,000 and $15,000 per person, depending on the individual’s health.
The agency began testing current and former inmates in 2018. The department also received $10 million in its 2019-2020 budget to cover drugs, staffing, equipment and other expenses related to the testing and treatment for hepatitis C.
Testing for all 18,125 South Carolina inmates is on schedule to be completed by June.
The agency’s director, Bryan Stirling, said this a big step toward providing inmates with a safe environment.
“We know that about 85% of inmates return to society within five years, and this will save medical treatment costs for taxpayers in the long run,” Stirling said.
Hepatitis C is a viral infection that is spread through exposure to blood or blood products, commonly through sharing needles during intravenous drug use.