Abu-Jamal, 62, is a former radio journalist who is serving a life sentence for the murder of Officer Daniel Faulkner during a 1981 traffic stop of Abu-Jamal's brother.
He filed suit in federal court in Pennsylvania after the state's Department of Corrections denied him access to antiviral drugs like Harvoni, Sovaldi, Viekira Pak, and Zepatier to treat his hepatitis C. Those drugs can cost from between $54,000 to more than $94,000 for a course of treatment.
And the Wall Street Journal has reported that state officials in court documents estimated that they would have to spend $600 million annually if they had to treat all hep-C-infected prisoners with those medications.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Robert Mariani found that the Corrections Department's decision to deny Abu-Jamal the drug was based on a policy that bars such treatment except in cases of a prisoner's suffering from "vast fibrosis or cirrhosis." Fibrosis is scarring of the liver.
That policy, Mariani wrote, "presents a conscious disregard of the known risk that inmates with fibrosis, like Plaintiff, will suffer from hepatitis C related complications, continued liver scarring and damage progressing into cirrhosis," and other conditions.
"In choosing a course of monitoring over treatment," Mariani wrote, corrections officials "consciously disregarded the known risks of Plaintiff's serious medical needs."
Mariani also said that "the only conceivable injury" that the Corrections Department "will suffer is monetary," because the ruling requires the agency to treat Abu-Jamal with the medications.
The judge wrote that while he "is sensitive to the realities of budgetary constraints and the difficult decisions prison officials must make, the economics of providing this medication cannot outweigh the Eighth Amendment's constitutional guarantee of adequate medical care."