Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility, a Michigan women’s prison, has been closed to visitors in order to treat a scabies outbreak that has afflicted the inmate population for more than a year, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Paul Egan, a journalist for the Free Press first reported the problem in March last year, revealing that more than 200 women have complained about suffering from a “mysterious” itchy rash.
Dermatologist Dr. Walter Barkey finally diagnosed the inmates with scabies following a few phone calls pleading with officials to let him see the inmates. Barkey had read the reports about the outbreak and was asked by a friend whose daughter is locked in the prison to look into it. After getting a state health department official to vouch for him he was able to get to the bottom of the issue. (Barkey previously volunteered to help diagnose rashes among residents in Flint, Mich., who’d been exposed to the municipal water system in 2016.)
The women’s prison officials have claimed scabies had been ruled out as they brought in an outside dermatologist before Barkey, to identify the rash – the tests came back negative. They also partly blamed the inmates for the spread of the rash saying that it had been caused by “improper mixing of prison-issued cleaning fluids by inmate porters who are charged with cleaning the prison, along with an inmate practice of using homemade laundry detergent to hand-wash their brassieres and underwear, rather than sending them to the prison laundry.”
Chris Gautz, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Corrections, told The Free Press “prison officials have been too busy trying to solve the problem to assess whether mistakes were made.”
Prison officials will give the same treatment to all of the inmates as a measure to help control the further spread of infection.