Prison post-mortem

Jeffrey Muller, 51, the ex-convict whose unsuccessful struggle with the Michigan Department of Corrections for a liver transplant was chronicled in this paper (“Jailhouse shock,” Metro Times, Jan. 22-28), died from liver failure March 23. Family members were at his side in an Ann Arbor hospital.

Muller began his battle for a transplant in 1996 when he was diagnosed with chronic liver disease as a result of hepatitis C. Placed on the liver recipient list despite numerous bureaucratic obstacles, he was removed from the list when the Corrections Department reported he had failed a drug test. Subsequent DNA testing proved that the urine sample submitted was not Muller’s.

His struggle helped publicize the prevalence of hepatitis C in Michigan prisons. State corrections officials estimate that 30 percent of state inmates are infected by the virus, which often leads to liver failure. Less than 2 percent of the general population is infected.

After spending 18 years in prison for an assortment of charges including armed robbery, Muller was released in November when his “good time” was restored. This in itself was a victory, says his attorney and friend David Santacroce, an assistant professor at the Michigan Clinical Law Program at the University of Michigan.

“What Jeffrey feared most was dying alone in a prison health ward,” Santacroce says.

Santacroce describes Muller as a person of courage, dignity and strength.

“He was a tenacious fighter,” Santacroce says. “Despite all the setbacks and seemingly insurmountable obstacles MDOC placed in front of him, he refused to quit. …

“What kept him going was the principle of the thing — that he had a right to be treated decently and humanely irrespective of his past sins. As he used to say emphatically, ‘I am more than a number. I am a person.’

“He also knew that his fight was more than about him. That it was also about the hundreds — if not into the thousands — of Michigan prisoners behind him that will need the same treatment, and face the same dilemma. We could all hope to be so principled and so courageous.”

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Metro Times editorial staff

Since 1980, Metro Times has been Detroit’s premier alternative source for news, arts, culture, music, film, food, fashion and more from a liberal point of view.
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