Court Battle Over Money for New Prison Health Facilities Escalates
On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson ordered state officials to give prison health care receiver J. Clark Kelso $250 million by Nov. 5 or risk being held in contempt of court, the Stockton Record reports (Smith, Stockton Record, 10/28).
The $250 million in question was allocated for prison infrastructure projects as part of a 2007 prison reform bill.
Kelso maintains that the funds have not been allocated for any other project (Herdt, Ventura County Star, 10/28).
Kelso wants the money as soon as possible so he can begin work on the first three of seven planned prison facilities for chronically ill inmates and those with mental illnesses.
Kelso has requested a total of $8 billion from the state for the project.
Henderson removed the prison medical system from state control more than two years ago after concluding that health care did not meet constitutional standards.Â He approved the construction proposal in June.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) had asked the Legislature to approve bond funding for the project but the request was rejected (California Healthline, 10/9).
Assistant Attorney General Daniel Powell said the state is not required to comply because the court lacks authority to order the construction of prisons.
In addition, Powell argued that Kelso has not given the state enough information about how the money will be spent. When Kelso is specific on his proposal, Powell said, state finance and prison officials will determine if it complies with the law (Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/28).
The federal Prison Litigation Reform Act prohibits federal judges from ordering prison construction, Powell said.Â He argues that ordering the state to fund the construction using money from the general fund could be a violation of the 11th Amendment (Richman, Oakland Tribune, 10/27).
James Brosnahan, Kelso's attorney in the case, said that the governor previously agreed to Kelso's plan and that the attorney general's office has reversed that position now that funding is being requested (Stockton Record, 10/28).
Next StepsIf the state does not comply with the order, Henderson said he will convene contempt proceedings (San Francisco Chronicle, 10/28).Â He has scheduled a hearing for Nov. 12 on the matter (Ventura County Star, 10/28). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.