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February 04, 2020

Pennsylvania woman battling cancer in prison after stealing groceries

Ashley Menser's attorneys have requested she instead be placed on house arrest

Prisons Cancer
Lebanon County Correctional Facility Source/Google Street View

Ashley Menser, who is battling cancer, initially was held at Lebanon County Correctional Facility, above, after she was sentenced to at least 10 months in prison for stealing $110 worth of groceries from a Weis Market.

A Pennsylvania woman battling cancer is receiving treatment inside a state prison despite requests that she be placed on house arrest so she can continue being seen by her regular oncologist. 

In a case that has generated national attention, Ashley Menser, 36, was sentenced to 10 months to seven years in prison for stealing about $110 worth of groceries from a Weis Market in Lebanon County. 

Menser received the strong sentence due to a criminal history that includes theft and drug possession charges. But she also has uterine and cervical cancer

Menser had an appointment at Hershey Medical Center's Cancer Institute after her sentencing on Jan. 22, according to the PA Post. Her family said Menser expected to be scheduled for a hysterectomy to remove the cancer. 

But Judge Samuel A. Kline sent Menser to Lebanon County Correctional Facility to begin serving her time, though he reportedly urged Menser be moved to a state facility that could better address her health needs.

On Monday, Menser's lawyer, Scot Feeman, said she had been transferred to a Pennsylvania state prison.

Menser has been receiving treatment since being diagnosed in 2011. She wrote her parents from prison, saying that she felt weak and was in pain. 

After news of Menser's situation spread, Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman stepped in to advocate that Menser to receive better medical attention. 

Lebanon County District Attorney Hess Graf defended the judge, noting Fetterman failed to acknowledge Menser's history of drug abuse and extensive criminal record. 

Even though Menser's situation is getting national attention, the dual reality of being an inmate while having cancer is not uncommon. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that 22 percent of inmate deaths in 2016 were cancer-related – and those deaths are on the rise. 

In 2017, The Inquirer reported that cancer is a leading cause of death for Pennsylvania inmates.