Repugnant Secrets: Did an Arkansas Prison Really Sell AIDS-Contaminated Blood?

in news •  last year  (edited)


Repugnant Secrets: the Arkansas Prison Blood Scandal

If, god forbid, you are in need of a blood transfusion, or medication refined from blood, the last thing you want to think about is from whom that blood was drawn -- though, the sterile environment and practices of the hospital will very likely soothe any worries you might have. Surely, the medical facility where this blood was drawn is as meticulously sterile and procedural as the hospital in which you're getting your transfusion or injection -- right? It's not like they're allowing prisoners with Hepatitis C or AIDS to donate blood -- right?

Well, from 1963 to 1994, that is exactly what one medical supply broker was doing in Arkansas: "trusty" prisoners at Cummins Unit state prison would draw the blood of other prisoners, often by reusing needles without sterilization -- instead choosing to use sandpaper to sand down the needles -- and without any oversight into assuring these prisoners were not intravenous drug users or infected with disease. In a prison system which runs not much different than a slave plantation, where daily wages are legally forbidden by the State for prison labourers, a prisoner could earn $7 just for "bleeding", or contributing their blood to the prison's blood bank program -- and at a running value of $50 per pint of blood, it was quite profitable for everyone involved. Well, everyone except those who would eventually receive the blood or plasma, or products refined from the plasma.

If you were to ask someone from Arkansas about their prison systems back 20 years ago, you would hear about how Cummins Unit is one of the only self-sufficient prisons in the nation, utilizing prisoners as farm labour while taking nearly nothing from the State to fund itself. However, were you to investigate even a little bit deeper, you'll find that this prison is more like a slave plantation, and no stranger to downright criminal and unconstitutional acts being used against the prisoners. From its opening in 1902 until it was ruled unconstitutional in 1971, Cummins was one of the many prisons in the United States which relied on the "trusty" system, in which convicts were placed in a strict hierarchy and designated inmates were used by staff to administer physical punishments, even committing violent crimes against other inmates, to maintain the quote-unquote discipline of the prison. Only two guards worked the night shift at Cummins -- all other guards were trusty inmates, and equipped with knives and, in the case of the trusty guards at the main entrance, rifles. In 1968, three human skeletons were found on the property of the prison, determined to be the remains of inmates who had been subjected to torture. Batteries had been attached to their genitals while they were in the care of the prison hospital, by the prison doctor himself. The prison was deemed to be holding inmates under conditions rising to the level of unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment, but it wasn't until 2001 that any correctional officers from Cummins would plead guilty to violating any of the civil rights of inmates. After all, you don't snitch on the Good Ol' Boys' Club.

But it was in 1964 that a physician from Birmingham, Alabama, named August R Staugh, came up with the brilliant idea that could make both the prison systems and prisoners money by instituting blood programs. For the first 15 years, it was managed by various physicians from the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences Campus in Little Rock, Arkansas, as well as the Arkansas Department of Corrections themselves. In 1978, the state contracted Health Management Associates, Inc., to run both the prison medical program as well as the growing blood & plasma program. By this time, the United States had banned the use of prisoner blood in medical procedures -- however other places, including Canada and places in Europe -- had not. By selling the blood through an intermediary blood broker in Montreal known as Continental Pharma Cryosan, HMA had found an extremely profitable venture in harvesting blood and plasma from inmates: at $50 per pint of blood on the international market, they could pay the inmates $7 for their blood donation, and then split the remaining $43 per pint with the Arkansas Department of Corrections. Prisoners were lining up to be part of this program, given Arkansas' laws against paying inmates for their labour, and would provide up to two pints per week. And with a law on the books in Arkansas which exempts the Arkansas Department of Corrections Plasma Center from having to report its income or financial holdings which was passed the same year HMA took up the prison healthcare contract, the money could come pouring in without any oversight or accountability.

Health Management Associates was founded by Dr. Francis 'Bud' Henderson in the 1970's, as a medical consultancy firm, but as it grew, Henderson gave controlling power to a banker named Leonard Dunn -- the same Leonard Dunn who would later sit on the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission under then-governor Bill Clinton, and then serve as Clinton's finance chair in his 1990 gubernatorial campaign in Arkansas. His close ties to Bill Clinton would be the saving grace for the Cummins Unit blood program.

Meanwhile, in Canada, people with haemophilia, or a genetic disorder which retards the ability for blood to clot, were beginning to die at astounding rates -- and not of haemophilic reasons, but rather from hepatitis and AIDS. Normally, a person with moderate or severe haemophilia must receive weekly injections of what is known as Factor VIII in order to provide them with red blood cells that are able to clot. Factor VIII is refined from plasma collected at blood centers, and, in investigations undertaken by the FDA in 1982, it was discovered that the blood coming out of the Arkansas Department of Corrections Plasma Center was contaminated with Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HIV. Though the FDA reported that the Plasma Center had made a voluntary recall on this blood, less than 1/6th of the blood had been recovered and the Plasma Center did not take part in any recall efforts or funding. In 1983, Health Management Associates was stripped of their license to sell blood, but in that same year, with help from Clinton and the Arkansas Department of Corrections, Dunn was able to convince the FDA that it wasn't HMA who was at fault for the contaminated blood entering circulation, but rather a corrupt prison guard who was taking kickbacks from prisoners in order to get them into the blood program, and their license was quickly restored -- however, the investigations did not end there.

An independent review of the prison was enacted by the Institute for Law and Policy Planning out of California, which concluded that HMA's work in the prisons was in violation of more than 40 points of the contracts which they held with the Arkansas Department of Corrections, more than half of which related to the treatment of patients and the handling of the blood center itself. When pressure rose on Clinton to fire the head of the Arkansas Department of Corrections, and longtime friend of the Clintons, Art Lockhart, Clinton quickly decided against it, stating he didn't believe the allegations were serious enough for him to ask Lockhart to resign. In 1986, HMA would have its contract revoked by the Arkansas Department of Corrections, but its replacement company, Pine Bluff Biologicals, would prove to have just as dismal a safety record as HMA, and would continue allowing contaminated blood to be shipped to Canada, the UK, and Japan.

An investigative journalist from Arkansas, Kelly Duda, began his own investigation in 1993, which would eventually become a documentary known as "Factor 8: The Arkansas Prison Blood Scandal". He interviewed hundreds of former inmates, victims of the scandal, employees of the Arkansas Department of Corrections and Health Management Associates, and more -- and in one segment of the book, he addresses just how corrupt the system in Arkansas was at that point:

When Michael Galster, who held an orthopedic clinic in Cummins state prison once every two weeks, discovered that HMA was harvesting tainted blood from prison inmates by paying them $7 a pint, he threatened to blow the whistle. He was prepared to testify that the blood, some of which was infected with Hepatitis C and the HIV virus, was being sold with the knowledge of prison authorities and Governor Clinton to brokers, who in turn shipped it to several foreign countries, including Canada.

"Vince Foster was then-Governor Clinton's liaison on prison issues", Galster told the author of this book. "One day, Foster came to visit me at my office in Pine Bluff. One of the prisoners was threatening to sue HMA over a non-blood issue, and Vince wanted me to get involved and convince the prisoner not to sue. bot those HMA doctors were hacks, and I refused to get involved."

"Vince started bullying me," Galster went on. "He said, 'You know what your noncooperation means as far as the state's renewing your othopedic contract, don't you, Mike?'

"And I said, 'Yes, I know what you're talking about.' And he said, 'It's going to be hard for you to maintain your contract with the prison system.' And I said, 'I know.' And he said, 'I just want to make sure you know how things work.' And, sure enough, they fired me. And knowing how close Hillary was to Vince, I never had any doubt that she knew all about it."

After he came to Washington, Vince fell into a suicidal depression once he realized that Hillary, as First Lady, could no longer be his intimate friend--and that he, in turn, could no longer protect her from scandal and her flagrant disregord for the law. He was right. The night of his death, Hillary launched one of the most shameful--and illegal--cover-ups of her entire career.

She sent two of her most trusted White House loyalists--Maggie Williams, the First Lady's chief of staff, and Patsy Thomasson, who was in charge of White House administration--into Foster's office to retrieve embarrassing and incriminating documents related to Whitewater and Hillary's other personal affairs. While White House Counsel Bernaer Nussbaum barred investigators from entering Foster's office, Maggie Williams, Patsy Thomasson, and Craig Livingston, Hillary's director of White House security, removed armloads of files and loose-leaf binders.

In 1994, after an investigation by the Canadian Government into the contaminated blood problem which would eventually lead to 7000 deaths from hepatitis, 4000 deaths from HIV/AIDS, and upwards of 20,000 cases of hepatitis related to the distribution of contaminated blood, the Arkansas blood program was finally shut down. At the time of shutting down, the blood program accounted for more than 40% of Cummins Unit's income -- more than any of the farmed cotton, vegetables, or livestock would bring in for the prison. And yet, this story goes generally unmentioned in the United States. Why? Canada has dedicated more than $2.2 billion to victims of this massive medical malpractice executed by the Arkansas Department of Corrections and its contracted medical consultancy firms. The UK is still hearing from victims in a case that began in 2007 investigating the problems of contaminated blood which has been directly linked to the Arkansas Department of Corrections. And yet, in the United States, we heard almost nothing.

It must be very nice, to be friends with the Clintons.


Sources

  1. Factor 8: The Arkansas Prison Blood Scandal: https://www.bitchute.com/video/WkuNFr1jI9kL/
  2. The Truth about Hillary: https://www.amazon.com/Truth-Hillary-She%60ll-Become-President/dp/B0044L1RC6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1463548302&sr=8-1&keywords=the+truth+about+hillary
  3. Encyclopaedia of Arkansas History & Culture: http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=3732
  4. Arkansas Bloodsuckers: The Clintons and the Prisoner Blood Trade: https://www.counterpunch.org/2015/09/04/arkansas-bloodsuckers-the-clintons-prisoners-and-the-blood-trade/
  5. Commission of Inquiry into the Canadian Blood System: http://epe.lac-bac.gc.ca/100/200/301/hcan-scan/commission_blood_final_rep-e/

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