LAO: Oversight of Prison Health Care Could End Without Construction
The LAO report analyzed the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's plan for reorganizing the state's prisons and ending federal oversight of inmates' health care services (Small, "KPCC News," KPCC, 5/16).
About six years ago, U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson appointed J. Clark Kelso to oversee the state's prison health care system 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.
Since then, the state has begun shifting low-level offenders to county jails to address prison overcrowding and building new health facilities at prisons.
In January, Henderson said the federal receivership overseeing California's prison health care can end because the state has improved inmate care.
California prison officials recently filed documents in federal court seekingÂ to end federal oversight of prison health care services in 30 days (California Healthline, 5/9).
Details of CDCR Plan
The CDCR plan would:
- Expand facilities for health careÂ andÂ mental healthÂ at certain prisons ("KPCC News," KPCC, 5/16).
- Close the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco;
- End contracts with out-of-state prisons and return 9,500 inmates to California by 2016;
- Cut about 6,400 jobs; and
- Stop a portion of a prison expansion program.
Matthew Cate -- secretary of CDCR -- estimated that the plan would save the state $1 billion the first year it is enacted and $1.5 billion in years following (California Healthline, 4/24).
Aaron Edwards of LAO said California prison officials have not justified the need for expanding medical and mental health facilities since the state now is shifting low-level offenders to county supervision.
He said that if the state builds the extra prison health facilities, it would take on $76 million in construction debt that it could have avoided.
Edwards also noted that CDCR's plan relies on the state receiving federal court approval for exceeding a court-ordered population cap of 6,000 inmates.
He said, "It's difficult for the Legislature to determine the most prudent course of action because their options really depend on whether the court approves that increase in the population cap" ("KPCC News," KPCC, 5/16).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.