977 inmates at CT prison receive Hep C treatment as part of trial settlement


Robert Barfield recalled on Wednesday all the times the state Department of Corrections medical staff continued to refuse his request to receive life-saving drugs that could cure hepatitis C.

“I kept telling the medical officials that it wasn’t even a problem that you were supposed to treat me,” Barfield, 53, said in an interview. “Of course, they were supposed to heal me. I told them I would sue them and it would cost them money.

Six years ago, Barfield was serving a decades-long sentence in Connecticut for an attempted murder in Nevada due to a prisoner exchange pact. He knew he had contracted hepatitis C, a viral infection that ravages the liver and can cause liver cancer or death if left untreated. He also knew he was running out of time.

“They wanted to wait until I was almost critical to give me the treatment, it doesn’t make sense,” Barfield said. “They told me it was one of those things that you have to accept. But I told them, maybe what I’m supposed to do is change things.

In July 2018, Barfield filed a federal lawsuit, claiming he had hepatitis C, but he was not receiving what had become the standard of care for the disease from the DOC, alleging the agency had violated his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

Since then, Barfield has been among nearly 1,000 state inmates who have been cured of the disease after receiving proper treatment in part through the efforts of his attorneys Kenneth Krayeske and DeVaughn Ward.

U.S. District Court Judge Michael Shea on Tuesday approved a settlement agreement that includes $112,000 in legal fees for Barfield’s attorney to end the nearly four-year legal battle. Under the agreement, all detainees through August 1 will be tested for hepatitis C and treated with direct-acting antiviral drugs as part of the standard of care for the disease.

It was a hard-fought and hard-won victory, Krayeske said.

“I could die tomorrow and say I accomplished something,” Krayeske said Wednesday. “We forced the State of Connecticut to spend $40 million. We shouldn’t have done that. »

Barfield and hundreds of other inmates got hepatitis C while incarcerated, but the lawsuit argued they didn’t have access to antiviral drugs, which had become standard treatment, until they were close to death.

“People were dying,” said Krayeske, who is representing a family in a wrongful death lawsuit filed against the agency over lack of treatment for hepatitis C.

As the litigation progressed, former DOC commissioner Rollin Cook, who later resigned during the pandemic, agreed to give Barfield the drugs. Krayeske’s response was to add plaintiffs to prevent the case from being thrown out.

When the state decided to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that Barfield was now receiving treatment, a federal judge dismissed the request in August 2019 and extended the litigation as a class action, representing all future and current inmates.

The next day, Cook issued a revised policy allowing all inmates to be tested and treated. This did not end the trial as the state had hoped, Krayeske said. But it gave 977 inmates a chance to beat hepatitis C, the lawyer said.

The cost has not been cheap. From August 2019 to October 2020, the DOC spent $9.9 million to test 14,000 inmates and treat 475 of the 1,398 who tested positive, according to figures released by the state in 2021.

The legislature voted in 2021 to accept the settlement, which required the state to test and treat all inmates until at least March 2022. The settlement funded an additional $20 million on top of the $10 million already spent and $10 million in DOC funding. which was set aside for hepatitis C testing and treatment as the trial progressed.

As of Friday, 21,248 inmates have been tested since August 2019, including 2,123 positive for hepatitis C, according to court records. Of those who tested positive, 977 received the antiviral drugs and are considered cured, including Barfield who now lives in Nevada after being paroled in November 2021.

Attorney General William Tong’s office, which represented the DOC in the lawsuit, declined to comment but instead referenced testimony submitted to the legislature in January 2021 encouraging lawmakers to accept the settlement.

“The Attorney General’s Office has determined that settlement is the best way to resolve this matter and believes this settlement is a fair resolution,” the testimony said.

When the judge agreed to deny the state’s motion to dismiss, Barfield’s right to receive damages was also denied. Although the settlement won’t extend testing and treatment until August, Krayeske argued in court filings that inmates could file future lawsuits if they were denied antiviral drugs.

Barfield, who is now looking for work and hopes to enter the legal profession one way or another, came away with a sense of pride that he was able to save lives through his fight to save his own.

“I feel good about it,” Barfield said. “At first, when I started in this field, it was to get treatment. But when Ken painted the bigger picture for me, I realized it could help everyone.


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