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Six lawsuits have been filed so far in Allentown’s US District Court on behalf of 30 former or current inmates of Northampton County Prison, who claim to have contracted and to have been permanently scarred by the antibiotic-resistant staph infection MRSA as a result of extremely unsavory prison conditions and a lack of appropriate treatment.

Defendants in the suits include Northampton County, PrimeCare Medical Inc. of Harrisburg (the prison’s health-care service), and Corrections Director Todd Buskirk.

Officials have confirmed that a MRSA outbreak did indeed sweep the Northampton County Prison in 2005.

Water leaks, dirty showers, filthy blankets and cells and an inadequate flow of fresh air have fostered a breeding ground for the illness as far back as 2005, according to the lawsuits. Inmates not being required to shower contributed to the outbreak and their cells were not properly cleaned because prisoners were given dirty mop water that was passed from one cell to another and never drained, the lawsuits say.

”Mattresses that had been defecated and urinated on were not cleaned or changed between inmates, and instead were quite often left in place for the next inmate’s use,” according to suits filed by attorney Gerald J. Williams in Philadelphia.

Staff at the prison would often taunt and tease those who had been infected by calling them ”MRSA-naries,” the suit says. -Kevin Amerman, The Morning Call

A trial date has not yet been set, and Williams has said he will likely file still more MRSA-related lawsuits over the course of the next few weeks. He has stated that prison conditions have not sufficiently improved to prevent the spread of MRSA, and that prisoners are still contracting this potentially deadly infection.

In 2005, a jury awarded two former inmates in Bucks County $1.2 million for having contracted MRSA in prison.

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