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Mumia Abu-Jamal to begin receiving hep C treatment behind bars

After a prolonged court battle, cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal is set to begin receiving treatment for hepatitis C from the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, according to a federal court filing.

The decision, outlined in a status report from a federal suit Abu-Jamal filed against the state, does not provide a timeline for when he will begin receiving his antiviral medication. But Amy Worden, a Department of Corrections spokeswoman, said Friday that his treatment would begin next week.

Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther and sometime radio reporter, is serving a life sentence for killing Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981. Two years, ago Abu-Jamal was hospitalized after falling into diabetic shock and found to have hepatitis C. Lawyers sued to improve his medical treatment.

His attorney, Robert J. Boyle, said Friday that Abu-Jamal's condition had worsened since then.

Worden said that the change in his prognosis is actually why Abu-Jamal will now be treated. The prison system has a standardized triage plan to determine when inmates with hepatitis C should be treated, Worden said, since about 5,000 inmates have the condition and the medication costs upward of $50,000 per person.

"Our position has always been that patients are prioritized for treatment with direct acting antiviral medications in accordance with the progression of the disease," Worden said. "Based upon recent testing, Mr. Abu Jamal is ranked among those patients eligible to receive medication in accordance with DOC's treatment protocol."

Abu-Jamal was sentenced to death row in 1982, but that sentence was later overturned by a federal appeals court and changed to life without parole.