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Prison Health News Issue 3 Apr 2004

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prison health news
-better health care while you are in and when you get out-

Issue 3, April 2004

Who We Are....

We will be talking about health
issues. For example, what is good
nutrition? Where can you get
services and information on the
outside? We want to take your
health questions seriously and
break down complicated health
information so that it is under standable.
We’re also here to help you learn
how to get better health care
within your facility and how to get
answers to your health questions.
Don’t get frustrated. Be persist ent. In prison, it’s often hard to
get what you want, but with
health information, it doesn’t have
to be impossible. Join us in our
fight for our right to health care
and health information.
Read on...
John, Waheedah, Patricia, Brian,
Jaci, & Sam

Carla Fay by Covarrubias, Books Through Bars, Contexts Collection

We are on the outside, but we
were inside before. We’ve been
where you are now and know
what it’s like....and survived it. We
offenders talking about
are ex-o
health issues and trying to bring
about a positive change for all
people who are in prison now or
ever have been in the past. This
newsletter is about all of us.

In this Issue:
Who We Are.........................................1
Cellie Rap................................................2
Can You See Me?.................................3
Mental Health Advocates
Win A Huge Victory........................4-5
No One Told Me...............................6-7
PHN Update..........................................7
Write An Article!...................................7
for People in Prison.............................8
page 1

by Brian Lafferty, a former inmate

Luis: I got willpower. I ain’t coming
Frank: Man, willpower and a box of xlax is the same thing. A load of crap.
You go where you know everyone,
means everyone knows you. And your
business. Do that state program, it’s a
whole new start. Max out, clean urine,
you done.
Luis: Done. After a 30 day blackout. I
wanna be out, man. Out. I need some
money. Can’t make no money there.
You know that.
Frank: What you need all this money
for? Do this program, walk off your
last 6 months of probation, they hook
you up with some schooling, a job.
Then, only time I see you will be a
visit. Right?
Luis: Right. That does sound good.
Frank: Think about it. It’s your life.
Luis: Yeah. It’s my life.

Envelope by Gilpin, Books Through Bars, Contexts Collection

A conversation between two inmates:
Frank, an old head who has been
through the system more times than he
chooses to remember, and Luis, a
young man doing his first bid. They are
cellmates, talking during count time.
Frank: So, you about up, huh? Feel
good, right?
Luis: Man, you don’t even know. Get
back, see some girls, make some
money. Been too long.
Frank: Hear that. You want some coffee? What you doin’ when you out?
Luis: What you mean, what I’m doin’?
You know what I’m doin’, man.
Frank: What’s your plan? What you got
set for yourself?
Luis: What you talking about?
Frank: You got to plan for this.
Luis: Man, I ain’t fittin’ to stay up in
here planning something. I’m out, dog.
I’m out.
Frank: Coffee’s ready. You think about
that program they was talkin’ up?
Luis: That state thing? Man, now I
know you crazy. Damn, this coffee’s
hot. Thanks.
Frank: That state thing gonna keep you
outta here. You know the street’s gonna
bring you back.
Luis: Man, I’m goin’ home, meeting
some girls, my man Tony gonna get me
a spot, make me some money. Be
where I know everyone. All I got is
four months and a wakeup. I’m golden.
Frank: Them girls is what got you here
in the first place. How you expect to go
out slinging for Tony and not bring
back a hot urine? You know what happens you do that? Be right back here,
drinking packets of coffee
page 2
and doing pushups.

can you
see me?
by smokie

at times i am impatient
sometimes i don’t want to wait
i don’t want to wait for some director of a movie
to show you that i am here
when the tv has a show about fellows like me
and you sign and sob and ooh and ahh
i get mixed emotions
i like your tenderness but you don’t turn it towards me
i could cry when you tell me after a movie like that
that’s how it was yet i was there
can you see me?
when i tell you of some hardship that was there
and you look disapproving
like you don’t even care




when i’m downtown trying to be the best i can be
you walk right by me like you can’t even see


you say you are moved by the spirit
and you go to church and pray
somehow i think that it’s wrong and it shouldn’t be thatJ



i have hope for us, yes hope for us all
yet i’m frightened when you can’t or won’t see me
i know that if you can’t see me then you won’t see our children
but i am here, look at me
and don’t rate me, don’t dissect me
don’t ignore me
just accept me
why do you try so hard not to see me?
i am here, i am your brother, your husband your friend
i love you
i forgive you
there is no place in the universe for you
except by my side, my dear, my sister, my wife, my friend
page 3
can you see me?

A Girl by T. Coe, Books Through Bars, Contexts Collection

i know you pray to god for help
but do you think that you are the only one
who cares, or loves, or even cries
can you really see me?

Health Advocates Win A
by Greg Mungan
I work as an advocate for the Mental
Health Association of Southeastern
Pennsylvania, (MHASP) located in
Philadelphia. In the last month,
MHASP received the go-ahead to start
/--- Project,
the Prison to Community
which wil provide education and support groups while people are incarcerated in the Philadelphia Prison
System, as well as discharge planning
and transitional case management
when folks are released. I was asked
to write an article about this program
and our fight to get it in place, with
the hope that we can transfer this program to other jails and prisons
throughout the country.
Mental Health Care in Prison
My work has included advocating for
people hospitalized against their will
at a local community hospital. This
work gave me the opportunity to meet
and talk to many people who came for
assistance at the hospital’s psychiatric
crisis center.
Some of the people I met at the psychiatric crisis center told me that they
had just been released from the
Philadelphia prisons. People in
Philadelphia prisons were denied sufficient health care during the initial
screening process, during incarceration
and at release.
Folks said they were released from
prison without any kind of discharge
plan and with either little medication
or no medication at all. Often they
were merely given a bus token and a
referral to a local shelter. Most were
released from prison without supports


page 4

of any kind. People who desired mental health supports, housing, medical
coverage, welfare or social security
benefits were left on their own. One of
our members, a former inmate, says,
“if you don’t have mental health problems before you go to jail, you will
when you leave.”
Fighting for Health Care
MHASP began to advocate for a discharge planning program for mental
health consumers coming out of the
Philadelphia Prisons. It was around
this time that MHASP was asked to
join the Philadelphia County Coalition
for Prison Health Care (Coalition).
The Coalition’s membership successfully brought together a diverse mix of
people who are formerly incarcerated,
people living with HIV/AIDS, mental
health consumers, family members,
advocates and public interest attorneys. The Coalition was created to
specifically address the health care crisis that exists in the Philadelphia
Prison System. Or, as Coalition member Brian Lafferty put it so well, the
Coalition is fighting for humane health
care “from spider bites to HIV.”
Through public demonstration at City
Hall and public testimony before City
Council, the Coalition gave voice to
those currently incarcerated and formerly incarcerated. For example, the
Coalition has begun to meet with
Philadelphia’s Prison Commissioner,
to push its demands - such as, appropriate discharge planning for ALL
inmates, adequate health care for all
during imprisonment and community

Hands by Joseph R., Books Through Bars, Contexts Collection

Huge Victory
oversight of the private corporation,
which is responsible for providing all
health services at the Philadelphia
Prison System. Due in large part to
the work of the Coalition, MHASP has
been negotiating over the last two
years with City officials to start a program that will work with mental health
consumers released from the
Philadelphia Prison System.
Advocates Win!
Last month, we finally got the support we need to start the Prison to
Community Project (PTCP). The program will provide discharge planning
and transitional case management
services to approximately 160 mental
health consumers each year who have
been sentenced in the Philadelphia
County prisons. PTCP will also provide mental health education/support
groups twice per week at the
Philadelphia County prisons. All are
welcome at these groups.
PTCP will work with people with
mental illness for up to three months
prior to their release from prison and
for three months after release from
prison. We are hoping that offering
services during the last stages of incarceration, at release and for three
months after release will create uninterrupted support as folks return to
their communities.
Prior to release from prison, a benefits specialist working for PTCP will
attempt to connect folks to benefits
such as Medicaid and Welfare or
Social Security cash assistance.
Discharge planners will meet with program participants on a regular basis to

create a goal plan. Based on the consumer’s desires, the goal plan will
address housing, mental health and
substance abuse supports, family and
social supports, vocational and educational supports and medical care.
Transitional case managers will meet
with program participants a few times
prior to release. Beginning on the date
of release and for three months after
release, transitional case managers will
support folks as they make the transition back to their communities.
One of the goals of the hiring process
of PTCP will be to hire some mental
health consumers who have been
incarcerated. As a person living with
mental illness, I know how alienating
traditional mental health systems can
be. The typical clinical supports set up
an “I am healthy and you are sick”
type of dynamic. But if we can
employ staff that has been there, done
that, we can shape the PTCP program
to empower mental health consumers.
The Struggle Is Not Over
While PTCP will be located in
Philadelphia, we believe it is a model
that other cities and communities can
take on and make their own.
Honestly, this program is not enough.
But it is a start. Even more importantly, it is an example of how, together,
we can fight for healthier communities
and win.

Write To:

Greg Mungan
Mental Health Association
of Southeastern Pennsylvania
1211 Chestunt Street, 11th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19107 page 5

Told Me
Waheedah Shabazz-El, a former inmate


-=- "::--

page 6


----=- ..... -

arms through the two orifices designed
for my legs. Then I’d pull the inverted
waistband down below and under my
breast for just the right fit.
I certainly never thought I’d see the
day when I’d make a solution of sugar,
water, and deodorant to spray on my
freshly curled hair; in a feeble attempt
to replicate spritz or mousse.
I wasn’t given a hint that my Dear
Mother would die during my six
months incarceration.
Then, when I volunteered to take a
free HIV test administered by the
prison health system, no one told me
that I’d test positive for the virus. No
one told me what or what not to do
about it. No one told me how or how
not to live. In fact, no one told that I
could continue to live.
In actuality, I had willed myself to
die. But, day after day I kept waking
up, ALIVE!

Envelope by Tina Gibson, Books Through Bars, Contexts Collection

No one told me that one day I’d be
saving the grains of salt that accumulated in the bottom of a pretzel bag to
season my food. No one told me. No
one told me I’d be using industrial
strength floor wax as nail enamel,
applied to my breaking nails with cutips that I obtained by trading off some
other valued necessity. No one told
me. No one told me that I’d have
crayons soaking in baby oil to use for
rouge, lipstick or eye liner.
I was never told that instead of good
old Elmer’s Glue, I’d be using toothpaste as an adhesive. Applied to the
back of my precious family photos, the
toothpaste made the pictures stick to
the corkboard near my bed provided
by the county. I was never told that
one day I’d be adapting a pair of county panties into a county “sports bra”.
Removing the crotch, slipping the
crotch over my head, inserting my

write an article!
There was no literature provided for
me, and no one told me to exercise more,
increase my water or even to order extra
vitamins on my commissary. I wasn’t
advised to increase my prayer efforts,
meditate or keep positive thoughts or
No one told me and in return I told no
one. It was my very own dark secret and
I dared not tell anyone for fear of being
shunned, rejected, stigmatized and left
So one day I was compelled to tell
myself that living was more important
than dying and that if I must live with
HIV, then so be it. No one told me, but
today I am prepared to tell you, DON’T
PANIC! Life is Good. Grasp it. Claim
it. Embrace it. Caress it. Salute it and
most of all Assert It.

PHN Update
We have two exciting updates at
Prison Health News (PHN).
First, the staff of the Philadelphia
AIDS Library are coordinating all
PHN correspondence. They are
keeping the subscription list
up-to-date, and answering all your
letters as quickly as they can.
So please keep writing!.
Second, the Philadelphia County
Coalition on Prison Health Care
(PCCPHC) is now coordinating
content and publishing for PHN.
They will also be including an insert
each issue on exciting news
from Philadelphia.

We have gotten lots of
requests for articles already, and
we know that everyone who
reads this newsletter will have
questions or his or her own
story to tell.
If you have advice for other
prisoners dealing with health
issues, write to us. We will feature you in “Words to Live By.”
If you have a question, write to
us. We will write you back and
may publish an article on your
question in Prison Health News.
If you want to write an article
on something you think is
important for prisoners’ health,
send it and we will consider
publishing it in Prison Health
News. You can also write us first
to discuss ideas for articles.
If you want your name kept
confidential, you can sign your
article with your first name or
In coming issues, we will cover:
* Nutrition,
* Exercise,
* Getting Support While You Are
* How to Advocate for Yourself,
* HIV Treatments,
* Hepatitis C Treatments,
* Treatment strategies for HIV
and hepatitis C Co-infection,
* Depression,
* Getting Out,
* Staying Clean When You Get
* Welfare, Food Stamps, and
Medical Assistance,
* Housing,
and much more!
page 7

for people in prison
If you need help while you are in, or when you get out, contact:
In Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia FIGHT
1233 Locust Street, 5th Floor
Philadelphia PA 19107
(215) 985-4448--no collect calls
Contact: Laura McTighe

In New York City, NY

Women Prison Association
& Home Inc.
175 Remsen Street, 9th Floor
Brooklyn, NY 11201
(718) 797-0300--for collect calls from
New York Jails/Prisons
(718) 637-6818--no collect calls
Contact: Leah Bundy

In Miami, FL

In San Francisco, CA

Continuum Springboard
225 Golden Gate Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 823-0414 --no collect calls
(415) 823-0415--no collect calls
Contact: Helen Lin or
Charlie Wilson

In Houston, TX

Houston Montrose Clinic
215 Westheimer
Houston, TX 77006
(713) 830-3000--no collect calls
Contact: Chris Jimmerson
Every organization on this list provides
case management, medical care and
support services for people when they
get out of prison. Most of these
organizations specialize in care for
people with HIV. Every organization
distributes Prison Health News.

Care Resource, Miami
225 N.E. 34th Street
Miami, FL 33137
(305) 573-5411--no collect calls
Contact: Pedro Torres
If you need resources in a city not listed here, write to us!
We will help you tack down anwers to your specific questions.
Write to us if you know a great organization that is missing from this list.

If you need information while you are in, contact:
Project Inform
National HCV Prison Coalition

Outreach and Education Department
205 13th Street, Suite 2001
San Francisco, CA 94103-2461
information & newsletters on HIV
*free to prisoners

Fortune News

c/o The Fortune Society
53 West 23rd Street
New York, NY 10010

newsletter on criminal justice issues
*free to prisoners

page 8

Edited By:
Laura McTighe
John S. James
Martin Wiley
Tiffany Smith
John Bell
Waheedah Shabazz
Patricia Green
Brian Lafferty
We are grateful for financial
support from Boehringer
Ingelheim and Orthobiotech

Hepatitis C Awareness Project
PO Box 41803
Eugene, OR 97404

newsletter & information on hepatitis C
*free to prisoners

Prison Legal News

2400 NW 80th St. #148
Seattle, WA 98117

newsletter on prisoner rights&court rulings
*sample issue $1. unused stamps OK.


If you would like to have Prison
Health News mailed to you, write to:

Prison Health News
c/o Philadelphia FIGHT
1233 Locust Street,
5th Floor
Philadelphia PA 19107
All subscriptions are free, and are
mailed First Cllass.



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