Prisoners settle suits over potentially tainted injections

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut prison inmates who say they received injections from a vial of insulin that was potentially tainted with hepatitis have settled their lawsuits against the state.

The settlements, finalized last month, call for 15 inmates to each receive between $750 and $2,000.

The lawsuits alleged that in 2013 a nurse injected a diabetic inmate who also suffered from hepatitis C twice with the same needle, dipping it back into the insulin vial between uses.

The same vial was then used for injections for up to 82 other inmates, according to the lawsuits.

The lawsuits allege the department then failed to test the inmates in a timely manner to determine if they had contracted hepatitis.

The inmates had sought as much as $1 million each.

Attorney Peter Bowman, who filed one of the lawsuits on behalf of four inmates, said, in addition to money, the prisoners were seeking to shine a light on problems within the Department of Correction's health care system.

"This is what litigation is for," said Bowman, who left the case before the settlement was reached. "The health care system has some flaws. We're hoping this litigation will hopefully bring better health care to everyone."

Karen Martucci, a spokeswoman for the Correction Department, said the injections were the result of an employee failing to follow established protocols.

"The Department of Correction, in collaboration with UConn Health and the Department of Public Health, immediately took appropriate action, including notification and testing of all identified offenders," she wrote in an email. She said health staff have received training for distributing medication.

The state Department of Correction last year took over medical care for prisoners from the University of Connecticut amid numerous complaints over the quality of inmate care.

Those included an unrelated lawsuit that alleges the state has failed to properly screen for or treat hepatitis C in its prisons.

The state also faces lawsuits from inmates who claim that, while UConn was in charge of the prison health care system, symptoms of cancer and other serious illnesses were ignored or the diseases misdiagnosed.

The department also received criticism last year after an inmate at the York Correctional Center, the state's only prison for women, gave birth in her cell. Prison officials blamed a miscommunication with UConn Health staff.

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