The Plague of Virginia Prisoners Dying From Medical Neglect (2023)

Reality Sets In

The reality of death by medical neglect in the Virginia prison system became all too real to me when I returned to the Virginia Department of Corrections (sic!) [VDOC] in 2021. I had just spent a decade being cycled through various other state prison systems in official efforts to break or silence me from resisting and exposing prison abuses. This reality set in because I returned to Virginia with a diagnosis of prostate cancer, which was then left untreated for a full year and a half by Virginia officials.

Theirs was an undisguised agenda to block and delay treatment so the cancer could spread and ultimately prove fatal. The entire process was witnessed by the public as I wrote numerous articles (1), and the public was entreated by supporters to pressure officials to provide me treatment. Treatment which finally came after a year and a half only because of the public’s involvement for which I remain humbled, grateful, and still thankfully counted among the living.

How They’re Killing Us

But how many have suffered and died or are suffering and dying now because of negligent or intentional medical mistreatment in Virginia’s prisons? The answer would likely defy the imaginations of most. The real scandal is the extent to which Virginia officials go to keep prisoner medical deaths secret.
Before going into numbers I want to touch on the norm of gross medical neglect that generates these deaths. Let’s look at some of the most serious illnesses, like cancer.

For my cancer treatment, I was transported almost daily for several months to the Massey Cancer Center at the Medical College of Virginia (MCV), a state-run medical school. There I met dozens of other imprisoned men with cancer. Every one of them without exception had a horror story of suffering gross medical neglect or denied care leading to the dangerous, often torturous, advances of their diseases.

Darrell Daniel was one example. He suffers from stage 4 thyroid cancer.

Darrell first realized something was wrong while he was confined at Augusta Correctional Center (sic!), when he noticed bumpy growths around his throat. He complained to prison medical staff who blew it off as ingrown hairs. Months later he lost his voice. As it worsened and he persisted for treatment he was seen by a prison doctor who this time dismissed it as hyperthyroidism. His condition became acute as his breathing became impaired. He was transported to a local hospital where he underwent surgery and was sent back to the prison. No referrals, no recommendations. His condition worsened and he had to be transferred to Sussex 2 State Prison where he could be seen at a major medical facility.

Nearly a year after his first complaints Darrell was taken to MCV where he was diagnosed with stage 4 thyroid cancer which had by then spread to his lungs. He was told that when caught early, thyroid cancer has the highest cure rates of all cancers, but because of his delayed care his cancer had likely advanced beyond being curable.

He also discovered that the surgery he’d undergone while at Augusta nearly a year before, was to remove several cancer tumors in his neck. But no-one previously told him that he had cancer, not that the surgery was to remove tumors.

By the time he got to MCV he was near death, having been deathly thin. But he made a remarkable recovery as the cancer unexpectedly went into remission. Darrell now lives in the prison infirmary and travels several times per week for end-stage chronic cancer treatments. He endures chronic pain and his prospects are grim.

Every prisoner I encountered at the Cancer Center had a similar story or worse. Several died from their illnesses during the time I was undergoing my own treatments.

Suffice it to say, most every prisoner who found themself finally receiving treatment at the the Cancer Center had been left to suffer without care until their condition became acute or deadly or had advanced to critical stages. (2)

But of course the public never hears about this. This is because Virginia has a well-oiled system in place for concealing not just systemic medical mistreatment of prisoners, but the staggering numbers of prisoners who suffer and die as a result.

The ACLU Expose on Hidden Prisoner Deaths in Virginia

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lifted the corner of the veil on this practice back in 2003. Things are worse now.

In 2003 the ACLU undertook an extensive investigation into the medical treatment of VDOC prisoners and issued a report in May of that year. (3) This under-publicized report written by former ACLU associate director Laura LaFay, revealed a criminally corrupt system of medical neglect of Virginia prisoners resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands of prisoners, and hidden by a system of manipulating and misapplying laws to prevent reporting these deaths to the public.

The report also exposed a gross mismanagement of state funds (nearly $10 million in 2002) that were supposed to be expended for prisoner medical care, and a medical system staffed by personnel who were, according to the report’s own title, “Accountable to No One”.

The ACLU was frustrated at every turn in their investigation and reporting because the VDOC refuses to record or report on prisoners’ medical care, and there was no reliable reference source or database on prisoner deaths nor even the numbers of those with contagious or chronic illnesses. The only VDOC information source found with any such information gave false information. For example, the VDOC’s website claimed no prisoners died of Hepatitis C in 2001, however, the state coroner’s office showed 11 Hep C prisoner deaths in 2001.

It found the VDOC kept information required to be made public secret, by misclassifying all information on deaths as “medical records” and using this exemption in the state Freedom of Information Act as grounds for refusal to produce them when requested by the ACLU and public. And what details the ACLU was able to get at great expense and under federal law requirements were still heavily and illegally redacted.

So Virginia used false “medical privacy” claims to block producing records of prisoner deaths, and otherwise simply didn’t keep records at all. It was also found that the VDOC doesn’t keep records of all of the numbers of prisoners with chronic illnesses and sickle cell anemia. The report ended up relying heavily on relatively few medical files and input from prisoners and relatives of deceased prisoners.

The worst revelation of the ACLU report was on the high incidence of Hep C infections within the VDOC and denial of treatment, which of course endangered the public with the return of most of Virginia’s prisoners back to society. The report found that some 13,000 Virginia prisoners were infected with Hep C, but as of November 2002 only 50 were receiving treatment. These statistics mirror the deliberate spread and refusal to treat contagious diseases in German Nazi concentration camps!

Again there was no record of how many prisoners died from such criminal medical neglect, or, when one considers that Virginia’s prisoner population is disproportionately Black, the genocidal implications of this.

Things are worse today. Indeed, when the public came to my aid, phoning and emailing the VDOC in efforts to compel officials to provide me cancer treatment, the official response was to not respond to the public or to avoid acknowledging what was being done to me, in the name of protecting medical privacy. They claimed anything related to my medical care could not be discussed with the public even when I was the one inviting public involvement.

If I had died as so many have already from deliberate medical neglect, everything could be kept hidden, including the abusive cause of my death, all in the name of medical privacy. When the German Nazis devised measures exactly like this that allowed the secret disposal of select groups of people they were ultimately denounced and prosecuted for committing crimes against humanity and genocide. Why is America exempt?

Dare to Struggle, Dare to win!
All Power to the People!


1. See for example, Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, “My Cancer diagnosis and the Disease of Denied Medical Care.” (2022); Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, “Why Would Medical Professionals Lie? My Denied Cancer Treatment Becomes More Sinister” (2022), and others, all posted at <>.

2. It almost seemed like the VDOC has been causing prisoners with cancer to degenerate until their disease reaches deadly stages, then MCV takes on the cases to experiment with various combinations of treatments, using us like lab rats.

3. Laura LaFay, “Accountable to No One: The Virginia Department of Corrections and Prisoner Medical Care,” (May, 2003), ACLU of Virginia


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