Inmate Lawyers: Report Undermines Prison Realignment Efforts
Lawyers for California prison inmates say that a 2011 state report that surfaced last week undermines arguments by state officials that they have reduced prison overcrowding, the Los Angeles Times reports (St. John, Los Angeles Times, 3/11).
About six years ago, U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson ruled that federal oversight of the state's prison health care system was neededÂ after determining that an average of one inmate per week died as a result of malpractice or neglect.
In January, Gov. Jerry Brown's (D) administration filed a request for a federal court to allow the state to regain oversight of the prison system. The request stated that California has reduced its inmate population and improved prison medical and mental health care.
However, a report issued late last month by Special Master Matthew Lopes said Brown's request to end federal oversight of the prison health system was premature (California Healthline, 3/11).
Details of 2011 Report
According to lawyers for the inmates, the 2011 report sets a safe operating capacity of the California's prisons at 103,470 inmates.
The Times reports that the figure is 15,600 fewer than the number of inmates currently housed in state prisons and 6,000 beds fewer than what federal courts have set as a limit for providing California inmates with constitutionally adequate health care.
Response From State
Three judges hearing litigation on the case allowed the report into the record. They gave state officials five days to respond to it (Los Angeles Times, 3/11).
In a statement released Monday, the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said the report understates the prisons' capacity because it assumes thatÂ each cell holds one inmate rather than two.
The agency said, "California's prisoners have enough room. It's the way we calculate capacity that's the problem" (San Francisco Chronicle, 3/11).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.