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On a cold night last winter, Treyshawn Rankin, a 38-year-old transsexual who has AIDS, was released in her prison jumpsuit from the D.C. Jail after serving a six-month sentence for sexual solicitation. During her release, jail staff violated department policy by not giving Rankin seven days of medication she needed to treat toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection that can strike AIDS victims, according to a lawsuit filed on Dec. 1 against the D.C. government and several employees of the D.C. Department of Corrections. It took Rankin almost a month to obtain her needed prescriptions, and she suffered a relapse of toxoplasmosis and “ultimately became comatose and required intubation for approximately a week,” the complaint states. The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on World AIDS Day, alleges negligence by the District and a violation of Rankin’s Fifth and Eighth Amendment rights to due process and protection from cruel and unusual punishment. The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, along with lawyers from O’Melveny & Myers, filed the suit seeking unspecified damages on behalf of Rankin, who couldn’t be reached for comment. She currently is a resident at a nursing home in Silver Spring, Md. The DOC has a long history of problems providing needed medications to inmates, says Philip Fornaci, director of the D.C. Prisoners’ Project at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee. A DOC spokeswoman says the department does not comment on pending litigation. On Oct. 1, the DOC announced a partnership with Unity Health Care to improve health services for the 3,500 inmates detained daily in D.C. facilities and to develop health care plans and follow-up appointments at community health centers for inmates after their release.
Brendan Smith can be contacted at [email protected].

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