Judge Denies Request To End Federal Oversight of Prison Health Care
On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson once again denied California's request to end federal oversight of its prison health care system, the Los Angeles Times reports (Megerian, Los Angeles Times, 9/6).
About six years ago, Henderson appointed J. Clark Kelso to oversee the state's prison health care after determining that an average of one inmate per week died as a result of malpractice or neglect.
In May 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered California to reduce its inmate population to help improve health care.
In response, the state began shifting low-level offenders to county jails to address prison overcrowding and building new health facilities at prisons.
The following month, Henderson denied California's request to resume oversight of prison health care (California Healthline, 5/31).
Details of Henderson's New Order
In his new order, Henderson wrote, "Evidence of progress made under the direction and control of the [federal] receiver does not constitute evidence of (the state's) own will, capacity and leadership to maintain a constitutionally adequate system of inmate medical care."
In addition, Henderson wrote that California officials have "not always cooperated with, and have sometimes actively sought to block, the receiver's efforts" (Los Angeles Times, 9/6).
The order requires state officials to demonstrate that inmates are able to receive adequate health care at each of the state's 33 prisons. Assessments will be conducted by court-appointed medical experts. The Office of the Inspector General also will conduct ongoing medical audits at prisons, according to the order (Small, "KPCC News," KPCC, 9/5).
State ResponseTerry Thornton -- a spokesperson for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation -- in a statement said that state officials respectfully disagree with the judge's new order. She said, "The state has demonstrated through its progress in its medical delivery and recent success in mental and dental health delivery that it has the will, the leadership and capacity to resume full responsibility" (Los Angeles Times, 9/6). 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.