Prisoner suffering from Hepatitis C unable to obtain treatment protocol

Abingdon, VA – A federal court judge will hear arguments tomorrow lawsuit seeking to overturn a Virginia statute that prevents prisoners from using the state Freedom of Information Act to obtain public documents.
The ACLU of Virginia and the Rutherford Institute represent Joseph M. Giarratano, an inmate at Red Onion State Prison suffering from Hepatitis C. Giarratano was unable to obtain a copy of the Department of Corrections policy describing how it is supposed to treat his disease. The same documents are available to any non-incarcerated person who asks for them.
Under a law passed by the Virginia General Assembly in 1997, no person incarcerated in a state, local or federal correctional facility may use the Virginia Freedom of Information Act to obtain government documents.
“When the bill was introduced, we told legislators it had the potential to cut prisoners off from information essential to their survival behind bars,” said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis. “With this case we can see exactly how that can happen.”
“Here’s a man suffering from a potentially fatal disease that he contracted while in prison, and he can’t find out if the treatment he is receiving even complies with prison policy,” added Willis. “And if he can’t find out if he is getting the treatment he is entitled to, he has no basis for challenging inadequate treatment in court or anywhere else.”
The ACLU and the Rutherford Institute argue that the Virginia law violates the right to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment and right to access the courts guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendment.
The lawyers for Giarratano are: Stephen D. Rosenfield, cooperating attorney for the ACLU of Virginia; Rebecca K. Glenberg, legal director of the ACLU of Virginia; and R. Frazier Solsberry, participating attorney for The Rutherford Institute. A copy of the complaint is available at

Contacts: Kent Willis or Rebecca Glenberg, 804/644-8022; Stephen D. Rosenfield, 434/984-0300

Case: Giarratano v. Johnson When: Thursday, June 1, 2:00 p.m. Where: U.S. District Court- Abingdon, VA Attorneys: Stephen D. Rosenfield, Rebecca K. Glenberg, R. Frazier Solsberry