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Holmesburg: Calling for an Apology from the City of Philadelphia

“My father’s skin is in those pharmaceutical companies.”

On August 1st, Merion West editor-in-chief Erich Prince was joined by author Allen Hornblum and activist Adrianne Jones-Alston for a discussion about the legacy of the human experimentation that took place at Holmesburg Prison and, to a lesser extent, at other detention centers in Philadelphia. The series of experiments, which was carried out from 1951 to 1974, affected prison inmates such as Ms. Jones-Alston’s father, Leodus Jones. Led primarily by University of Pennsylvania dermatologist Albert Kligman, the experiments, which caused considerable harm to many study participants, eventually resulted in the creation of pharmaceutical products such as Retin-A. Mr. Hornblum authored the 1998 book Acres of Skin, which details the experiments and was the result of his own observations working as a literacy instructor at Holmesburg during the early 1970s, and he has been previously profiled at Merion West. Together, he and Ms. Jones-Alston, who has also written about how her father’s experience as a test subject impacted their family at Merion West, are now calling on the City of Philadelphia to issue a formal apology for its role in the experiments such as how then-President Bill Clinton formally apologized for the United States government’s role in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study.

This interview appears in video form:

Erich J. Prince is the editor of Merion West. Erich has contributed to a variety of publications including The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Hartford Courant, The News & Observer, the Orlando Sentinel, and The Hill. He studied political science at Yale, completing his thesis on polarization in the United States Congress.

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