A leading Harrogate disabilities campaigner is meeting with former Foreign Secretary David Miliband (Wednesday, 1 October 2014) in his bid to secure the release of a fellow Thalidomider from an American prison.
Guy Tweedy, from Harrogate, is hopeful that Mr Miliband – now President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee – can use his influence in persuading the American Corrections Board to give Mark Gizewski permanent parole.
Mr Gizewski, who has a mental age of ten and is supported financially by the UK Thalidomide Trust, was jailed in 2009 for a string of minor offences and sent to Five Points Correctional Facility, New York.
However, his lawyers claim that during detention Mr Gizewski has been denied painkillers for chronic pain, the foot on his prosthetic leg was broken and not replaced, his request for an “egg crate” mattress was ignored and a severe ear infection went untreated.
Following an incident with a prison warder earlier this year, Mr Gizweski’s elbow was shattered in five places, and, following a kick to the abdomen, he lost consciousness and suffered from urinary incontinence.
In April, he was transferred from Five Points to Walsh Medical Centre at Mohawk Correctional Facility, New York. However, it wasn’t until ten days after admission that he was given any medication for his elbow and aliments.
He is currently residing in Shawangunk Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison in New York State.
Mr Tweedy, who flew to New York yesterday, said: We have been fighting Mark’s case for the last six months and I believe we are starting to make headway.
Thalidomide has left Mark both mentally and physically disabled and he simply should not be in this prison. American’s have very little knowledge of Thalidomide hence us championing his cause.
Mr Miliband agreeing to meet with us is a major coup, and I hope he can use his extensive influence to secure Mark’s release on permanent parole.
Mr Tweedy, who will be visiting Mr Gizewski in Shawangunk the day before his briefing with the former Foreign Secretary, is also meeting Daniel O’Donnell, a New York State Assemblyman and Chairman of the Corrections Committee, plus a number of other senior state legislators.
Thalidomide was administered to pregnant women to combat the effects of morning sickness, however, in December 1961 the drug was withdrawn after it was linked to crippling side effects in new born babies.
At least 2,000 babies were born in the UK with deformities brought about directly by Thalidomide, and more than half of them died within their first year. An unknown number also died in the womb.