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York County man files lawsuit over prison hepatitis care

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Monday, Jan. 28, 2013, 8:46 p.m.

A York County man claims in a federal lawsuit filed Monday in Pittsburgh that the Department of Corrections is violating the civil rights of several thousand inmates by refusing to treat their hepatitis C based on the length of their prison sentences.

Jason E. Runkle, 25, of Red Lion says in the proposed class-action lawsuit that he is serving a sentence of 18 months to five years at the State Correctional Institution at Mercer for his conviction on robbery and related crimes.

Because he received credit for time served, his minimum sentence was less than one year, so prison officials refused to provide further diagnosis and treatment after he tested positive for hepatitis C, the lawsuit says. Depending on the genotype, the treatment for hepatitis C takes either 24 weeks or 48 weeks, according to the lawsuit.

With an estimated 12 percent to 35 percent of inmates infected and more than 51,000 people in Pennsylvania's prisons, the policy affects as many as 17,850 inmates, the lawsuit says.

A Department of Corrections spokeswoman couldn't be reached for comment.

Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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