California Prison Medical Receiver Asks Court for $8 Billion From State
On Wednesday, California's prison health care receiver J. Clark Kelso filed a legal motion in U.S. District Court in San Francisco asking that the state be required to allocate $8 billion over five years to build new prison hospitals and improve existing facilities, the Sacramento Bee reports.
The order would compel the state to provide $3.1 billion to the prison health care receivership in the current fiscal year, further complicating California's budget picture (Furillo, Sacramento Bee, 8/14). Lawmakers have yet to reach an agreement for addressing the state's $15.2 billion budget deficit, 45 days into the current fiscal year (Yi, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/14).
The receivership stems from a class-action lawsuit ruling that found that medical care in California prisons is so poor that it violates the U.S. constitution's protections against cruel and unusual punishment (Smith, Stockton Record, 8/14).
The move comes after Republican lawmakers twice this summer blocked legislation that would have issued lease-revenue bonds to cover the costs of the construction. Kelso said Republican senators withheld their votes because they were pushing for changes in other bills (Herdt, Ventura County Star, 8/14).
Kelso plans to build seven new prison medical facilities with 10,000 beds. His plan also calls for upgrades to California's 33 prisons (Zapler, San Jose Mercury News, 8/14).
Kelso said he is requesting $1 billion more than he requested previously because he has incorporated upgrades to dental and mental health clinics to comply with court orders in other lawsuits against California's prison system (Rothfeld, Los Angeles Times, 8/14).
Beyond directing the state to disburse the requested funds to the receivership, Kelso's order asks that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and Controller John Chiang (D) be held in contempt of court for not providing the requested funds (Mendel, San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/14).
Kelso also asks the court to fine the state $2 million daily until the requested funds are provided to the receivership. The fines should increase by $1 million daily every 10 days, Kelso argues.
Those funds would be allocated for the receivership's use.
In addition, Kelso asks that interest earnings on a $31 billion state investment account be allocated to the receivership.
Kelso requested a Sept. 22 hearing in San Francisco in the case (Los Angeles Times, 8/14). He asked that Schwarzenegger, Chiang and Finance Director Mike Genest be required to attend the hearing (San Francisco Chronicle, 8/14).
According to the Bee, there is no timetable on when the court would rule on Kelso's motion.
In a statement, Schwarzenegger spokesperson Aaron McLear said that the administration "will continue to work closely with the receiver ... in a fiscally responsible way to provide the necessary funding."
Chiang said he could not disburse state funds "unless there is a legislatively approved appropriation or a court order compelling payment" (Sacramento Bee, 8/14).
According to the New York Times, Schwarzenegger administration officials expect funding for prison health care to be resolved in a state budget agreement before the matter is heard in court (Moore, New York Times, 8/14).
Links to broadcast programs featuring coverage of Kelso's order are provided below.
- "Show Down on Prison Health Care" (Mantle, "Air Talk," KPCC, 8/13).
- "Federal Receiver Orders Payment of $8 Billion" (Morrison, "Patt Morrison," KPCC, 8/13).
- "Prison Receiver Demands $8 Billion for California Prison Health Care" (Small, "KPCC News," KPCC, 8/13).