Governor Backs Medical Prison Facilities
The Schwarzenegger administration on Monday announced its support for a plan to allocate some new prison beds for medical and mental heath care, the Sacramento Bee reports (Furillo, Sacramento Bee, 8/15).
Acting Corrections Secretary James Tilton at a news conference on Monday said officials are considering a tentative plan that would create four to six facilities with a total of 5,000 medical beds and 5,000 mental health beds. Tilton said the facilities could be built near existing prisons "so that you have that interface of the regular population" (Schultz, Fresno Bee, 8/15).
Tilton added that the availability of medical staff throughout the state will be a major factor in determining where to create the facilities (Pollard, Bakersfield Californian, 8/14).
Robert Sillen, the federal receiver overseeing prison health care reforms, recommended that one of the proposed facilities be designated as an acute and long-term care hospital. J. Michael Keating, a court-appointed special master overseeing the prison mental health care system, said the second proposed facility should be a mental hospital (Sacramento Bee, 8/15).
In related news, California will not consider a federal panel's recommendation to involve prison inmates in clinical trials until the state can guarantee inmates basic health care, which could take five to 10 years, according to a spokesperson for the federal receiver overseeing reforms to the prison health care system, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reports (Austin/Wells Miller, Riverside Press-Enterprise, 8/14).
An Institute of Medicine report, which was initiated at the request of HHS in 2004, advises that experiments with greater risks be permitted if they have the potential to benefit prisoners. It also suggests that prisoners should be allowed to participate in federally funded clinical trials as long as the trials are in the later and less dangerous phases of the FDA approval process.
IOM states that all studies should be subject to an independent review and that at least half the participants be nonprisoners. In addition, the report calls for "adequate protections" to avoid "attempts to coerce or manipulate participation" with regard to inmate compensation (California Healthline, 8/14).
California prisons have not allowed clinical trials in more than 40 years.
Inmate advocate David Warren criticized the recommendation, saying that inmates "are not people who are capable of informed consent" because overcrowding and poor medical care have created a "level of desperation" that could prompt inmates to participate in trials in which they otherwise would not be involved (Riverside Press-Enterprise, 8/14).
California's prison medical system "is a disgrace," and it is "time to take serious action along the lines of the Sillen and Tilton recommendations," an Oakland Tribune editorial states. According to the Tribune, "there are good reasons to take the advice of" Tilton, who has recommended "that health services be spun off either under private or government auspices" (Oakland Tribune, 8/14).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.