Judges Order Cut to Prison Population To Help Fix Health Care
On Monday, a three-judge panel tentatively ruled that thousands of prisoners be released over the next two to three years, concluding that overcrowding has been a deterrent to proper medical and mental health care at prison facilities, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Egelko/Buchanan, San Francisco Chronicle, 2/10).
The tentative ruling is aimed at giving the parties "notice of the likely nature of that opinion, and to allow them to plan accordingly," the judges said (Walsh, Sacramento Bee, 2/10).
Monday's ruling stems from two class-action lawsuits filed on behalf of prison inmates that alleged that physicians, nurses and technicians are overwhelmed by the number of prisoners and are unable to provide timely and effective medical care (California Healthline, 11/18/08).
The panel said that prisons do not have sufficient medical staff to treat all inmates and that overcrowding has raised the chances for infectious diseases to spread (San Francisco Chronicle, 2/10).
The judges recommended that the prison population be reduced to between 100,800 and 121,000 inmates (Thompson, AP/San Jose Mercury News, 2/9).Â Under the ruling, the state would have to decrease the prison population by up to 57,000 people (Rothfield, Los Angeles Times, 2/10).
Donald Specter of the not-for-profit Prison Law Office, which represented inmates in the suit, said the ruling confirms the group's contention that overcrowding is creating unsafe conditions (San Francisco Chronicle, 2/10).
California Attorney General Jerry Brown pledged to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court (Moore, New York Times, 2/10).Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary Matthew Cate said he and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) "disagree with the panel's ruling" (Sacramento Bee, 2/10). 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.