Judges Set To Rule on Cause of Substandard Prison Health Care
A three-judge panel is set to meet today to determine whether overcrowding is the main cause of poor medical and mental health care in California's prison system, the Sacramento Bee reports.
Two class-action lawsuits filed on behalf of prison inmates allege that physicians, nurses and technicians are overwhelmed by the number of prisoners and are unable to provide timely and effective medical care.
The inmates' attorneys plan to ask for an order to reduce California's prison population from 160,000 to 110,000. The cut would bring the state's prison population to about 130% of capacity, compared with the 200% currently.
The state rejects the idea that overcrowding is the main cause of substandard medical care.
In a trial brief, lawyers for the state argue that evidence will show that the plaintiffs' claim is false and that the "plaintiffs cannot meet the strict legal standards ... required for this three-judge panel to impose a prisoner release order."
The defense lawyers argue that the best way to address the alleged constitutional violations is through the continued efforts by court-appointed prison health care receiver J. Clark Kelso and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations (Walsh, Sacramento Bee, 11/18).
U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson removed the prison medical system from state control more than two years ago after concluding that health care did not meet constitutional standards (California Healthline, 11/12).
By Dec. 19, the judges will rule on whether overcrowding is the main cause of substandard prison medical care.
If the judges side with the plaintiffs, the trial will move to a remedy phase sometime next year. The three-judge panel then would be tasked with deciding whether to impose a prisoner release order (Sacramento Bee, 11/18).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.