Volunteer Impact

Haitian Prison Fights Scabies

  • Haitian Prison Fights Scabies

This article was originally written and published by VEGA Member FAVACA


Thousands of inmates in Haiti’s largest prison had been exposed to the itchy skin infection of scabies, and they needed help. FAVACA got the call from Dr. Jean Pierre Elie, the medical director of the National Penitentiary in Port-au-Prince, and they made the connection with Dr. John May in Miami. Dr. May works to improve health in prisons around the world as the director of Health through Walls, a Florida-based non-profit volunteer organization of doctors, nurses, and technicians. He visits Haiti regularly, and he knew what to do. Dr. May gathered two professionals from the Broward County Jails, Dr. Nirva Derizier and Nurse Jean Fenelon, and FAVACA connected them with Nurse Jennifer Harris, a repeat volunteer for FAVACA and instructor at Barry University’s nursing school with a solid background in health prison programs. The four of them traveled to Haiti in late March and joined with the International Red Cross to treat patients with scabies and to decontaminate the penitentiary.

There was a major, measurable decrease in scabies and the associated suffering in prison,” said Dr. May.

The team also worked with Haiti’s medical prison staff to improve their ability to identify major diseases. With a mind toward the future, they met with the head of Haiti’s National Penitentiary Health Department, Dr. Elie St-Pierre, to discuss arrangements for regular training sessions by FAVACA volunteers.

Dr. John May of North Miami, Florida is the founder of Health through Walls, a nonprofit organization of correctional health care professionals who volunteer and provide consultation and health care services in the prisons of developing countries such as in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Tanzania.  As a FAVACA volunteer, Dr. May shared his knowledge and expertise in 2007 with Dr. Elie St-Pierre, Medical Director of the National Penitentiary in Haiti and other prison health professionals and staff in an effort to eradicate scabies in Haiti’s National Penitentiary System.  In 2004, he delivered similar services to the national penitentiary system in the Dominican Republic.  Dr. May is the Chief Medical Officer for Armor Correctional Health Services of Miami which provides health care services in jails and prisons across the United States.