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Former Prisoner Aims To Reform TB Prevention Efforts In South African Prisons

The Wall Street Journal examines how a former prisoner in South Africa “is forcing [the country] this year to intensify its fight against [tuberculosis (TB),] a disease that has breached jail cells, defied international borders, and grown increasingly drug resistant.” Arrested “on accusations of money laundering and trafficking counterfeit passports and dollars” in 1999, Dudley Lee was infected with TB while awaiting trial for over four years in Pollsmoor Prison, according to the newspaper. “In 2004, after his acquittal, he sued the prison system for giving him TB,” and “he won his case in December,” the Wall Street Journal notes, adding, “Following Mr. Lee’s legal victory, ‘We sat down to see what we needed to do to address the situation,’ says Delekile Klaas, who oversees Pollsmoor and other prisons for the Department of Correctional Services.”

“Lee’s account of survival offers a stark lesson in how prisons can become deadly incubators,” the Wall Street Journal writes, noting that “in its latest annual report, South Africa’s prison watchdog, the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services, attributed 110 out of 804 natural deaths to tuberculosis in the year starting April 2011. While the rate has subsided from a decade-earlier peak, the report warned that dense populations still undermine the fight against prison TB.” The newspaper writes, “The WHO estimates that globally one quarter of a country’s tuberculosis burden may come from inside prisons,” and “[p]oor monitoring abets these epidemics.” Lee said, “Hopefully, in some small way I’ve managed to goad, or bully, this country into doing something about” TB in the South African prison system, according to the newspaper (Wonacott, 8/7).