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Illinois Guards Protest Prison’s Failure to Treat Scabies Outbreak

Illinois Guards Protest Prison’s Failure to Treat Scabies Outbreak

An outbreak of scabies, a mite infestation that causes itching and rash-like symptoms, has hit the Illinois River Correctional Center. Guards protested outside the facility on October 1, 2008 to decry prison officials’ refusal to address the problem, which the guards said was “spreading like wildfire.”

Over 30 prisoners were reportedly infected; however, prison administrators refused to admit there was an outbreak or remedy the situation. The guards said they feared getting scabies themselves.

“On shakedowns, we have to go through clothes. There’s a huge chance we’re going to contract this just through the shakedowns,” stated Sgt. Nick Conklin. He said many prisoners failed to seek treatment because they were afraid or ashamed about possibly having scabies. “I’ve heard cases where guys had it and didn’t say anything for two weeks.”

Union officials representing the guards claim fiscal realities are at the root of prison officials’ deliberate indifference to the outbreak. “There’s no reason for this. They’re not going to provide every inmate medication because of money ...,” said Dick Heitz, president of Local 3585 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “The inmates are becoming more and more irritated,” he added, presumably with no pun intended.

Meanwhile, prison officials have denied there’s a widespread outbreak, saying they were treating a few prisoners with topical creams and throwing away contaminated mattresses.
Of course there is little outrage by guards or the unions that represent them when prisoners are denied medical care for conditions that do not affect prison staff, or when they have to pay medical “co-pays” for non-existent or ineffectual treatment.

An unrelated scabies outbreak occurred at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center in Oakdale in September 2008. Dozens of prisoners were reportedly infected, and an entire unit at the facility was temporarily quarantined.

Sources: The Journal Star, WMBD/WYZZ TV, Associated Press

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