Ex-prisoner sues over TB

27 August 2012 - 02:29
File photo.
Image: Gallo Images/Thinkstock File photo.

Members of the Treatment Action Campaign will join other demonstrators outside the Constitutional Court, in Johannesburg, and at Pollsmoor prison, in Cape Town, tomorrow in support of a former prisoner who is suing the state for negligence.

Dudley Lee is suing the Correctional Services Minister because, he says, he contracted tuberculosis while incarcerated at Pollsmoor prison nine years ago.

Lee's case will be heard in the Constitutional Court tomorrow.

He was imprisoned from 1999 to 2004 and was diagnosed with the disease in June 2003.

Lee sued the state, claiming, among other things, that his constitutional right to health had been violated.

He maintains that he was healthy when he was sent to prison.

In a statement the TAC claims that the Department of Correctional Services failed to reduce the risk of prisoners contracting TB.

"Pollsmoor is notoriously congested. It holds well over twice as many people as it is legally allowed. The prison keeps prisoners indoors for up to 23 hours a day," read the statement.

"A study published in the SA Medical Journal has found that the prison's poor conditions cause an awaiting-trial prisoner to have a 90% risk of becoming infected with latent TB every year that he is in prison."

TB is the No1 cause of death in South Africa and TAC said that it "disproportionately kills the poor" and people who are HIV-positive.

TAC claims that conditions in the prison allowed the spread of the disease and prisoners who are released invariably infected people in their community.

"This case represents a critical moment in the fight against TB in South Africa and the pickets will highlight the consequences of this case for human rights, public health and justice."

Former president Nelson Mandela was jailed at Pollsmoor from 1982 to 1988. He contracted TB while in prison.

According to court papers, Lee faced several charges - including counterfeiting, fraud and money laundering.

He was released on bail in February 2000 and was rearrested two months later.

Lee was detained for more than four years and appeared in court "about 70 times" before being acquitted and released in September 2004.