Action Alert - Demand transfer and medical treatment for prisoner locked up next to toxic coal ash dump

Action Alert – Demand transfer and medical treatment for prisoner locked up next to toxic coal ash dump

Nicholas Morrissey and his daughter before his illness

Nicholas Morrissey and his daughter before his illness

Nicholas Morrissey #HL6873 is a prisoner at State Correctional Institution (SCI) Fayette who is suffering from debilitating neurological problems for which he has been refused evaluation and treatment by prison medical staff.  SCI Fayette is located next to a massive coal ash dump in Southwestern PA, as documented in the recent report No Escape: Exposure to Toxic Coal Waste at State Correctional Institute Fayette

Nick has been locked up at SCI Fayette since 2008.  Last year, he began to experience a number of debilitating health problems.  He writes, “One day I woke up and it was difficult for me to walk and see… I started getting dizzy and I couldn’t keep my balance and I started getting a numbing feeling in the left side of my body.” He quickly developed more symptoms:  tingling sensations and muscle spasm, loss of mechanical function in his arms and legs, memory loss, hair falling out, and extreme weight loss.

Take action today: Call and request that the PA Department of Corrections:

1) Transfer Nicholas Morrissey from SCI Fayette due to the risk that his health problems are being caused or made worse by the coal waste dump; and

2) Provide Nick with immediate diagnostic care by a specialist outside the prison, including an MRI.

Call:

SCI Fayette Superintendent Brian Coleman: 724-364-2200

PADOC Secretary John Wetzel: 717-728-4109

Background information:

“My life has completely changed in the last year.  I went from an athletic and healthy person, to a frail sickly man who can barely walk.” -Nicholas Morrissey

Early this year, after a series of blood tests, Nick was diagnosed with and began being treated for hyperthyroidism.  With treatment, Nick’s thyroid levels returned to normal, but most of his symptoms persisted or worsened.  The cognitive problems, muscle spasms, and temporary loss of function in his arms, legs and face, became more severe, leaving him unable to walk or get out of bed on many days.

Despite the persistence of these debilitating symptoms the prison’s medical department has refused to perform further evaluation or take him to an outside specialist for diagnostic care.  He has been told by medical staff that his symptoms are in his “imagination” and that he needs to “man up.”  He writes, “When I told the doctor that it was difficult for me to walk and that I couldn’t control my body anymore, I was kicked out of his office and threatened with being sent to the hole.”  Nick has filed several grievances in response to the neglect and intimidation exhibited by medical staff, all of which have been dismissed.  He and his family are concerned that his declining health is related to the massive coal waste dump surrounding the prison.

Talking points for phone calls to the Department of Corrections:

  • If you are calling Secretary Wetzel, ask for Secretary Wetzel’s office.  If you are calling SCI-Fayette, ask for Superintendent Coleman’s office. You will be transferred to an assistant in one these offices. Please make calls to both offices.
  • Tell them you are calling about Nick Morrissey #HL6873, a prisoner at SCI Fayette who is experiencing neurological problems including severe muscle spasms, loss of motor function, and memory loss.
  • Explain that Nick has been diagnosed and treated for hyperthyroidism, but his symptoms have persisted and cannot be explained by his thyroid problems.  Medical staff have refused further evaluation and diagnostic testing to determine the cause of his symptoms and have exhibited willful neglect toward his illness.
  • Tell them you are aware that SCI Fayette sits next to a large coal ash dump and that the Human Rights Coalition and the Abolitionist Law Center recently released a report which demonstrates that prisoners are at risk of exposure to pollution from the site. Tell them you are concerned that Nick Morrissey’s health problems could be related to the pollution from the dump.

Request that SCI Fayette:

  • Transfer Nicholas Morrissey from SCI Fayette immediately, due to the risk that his health problems are being caused or made worse by the coal waste dump
  • Provide Nick with immediate, in-person, diagnostic care by a specialist outside the prison, including an MRI.