Inadequate health care for inmate Sal DiMasi is a crime too many convicts suffer

Yvonne Abraham is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at

It’s gut-wrenching to read the court filing describing Sal DiMasi’s attempts to get treatment for his cancer. Those eight short pages reveal just how far the former speaker and current federal inmate has fallen: too far.

The man who was once one of the most powerful in the state found himself suddenly at the mercy of various prison officials, finding lumps on his neck and pleading for months for treatment as he traveled from Kentucky to a Massachusetts grand jury investigating the probation department.

According to the document, a request by his lawyers for more time to appeal his 2011 corruption conviction, the former speaker was so distracted by his untreated illness that he was barely able to discuss his case with his lawyer.

Even when he finally got to see doctors back in Kentucky, he was kept in the dark for weeks after his visits: “He continued to wait, scared, and frustrated—but nothing seemed to be happening.”

His wife Debbie, battling cancer herself, tried to help, but her husband’s doctor stopped returning her calls. DiMasi was finally sent for treatment on June 6, almost six months after he first discovered the lumps. His cancer has spread.

If all of this is true, it’s appalling. Yes, DiMasi deserves his imprisonment. He took payoffs, profiting from his power. But nobody should be treated this way. Not DiMasi, and not other inmates who have similar stories to tell. And they are many.

“While it’s true that some prisoners do receive adequate health care, it’s also true that prison health care is often frankly abysmal and results in needless suffering,” says David Fathi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union National Prison Project.

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One thought on “Inadequate health care for inmate Sal DiMasi is a crime too many convicts suffer

  1. I was in Federal prison, traveled to 13 prisons in my 5 years incarceration. I tried to get to see the dentist, yet never once. It took 5 years, until I got out before I got my teeth seen. It is way to overcrowded.


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