New Medical Beds Included in State Prison Overhaul
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) on Thursday signed legislation (AB 900) that will allocate 8,000 new beds dedicated to medical services in state prisons as part of a larger prison construction project, the Sacramento Bee reports (Furillo, Sacramento Bee, 5/4).
Construction of new prison facilities will be split into two phases, with 6,000 new prison medical beds slated for construction in Phase I. The remaining 2,000 beds will be added in the second phase.
Robert Sillen, the court-appointed receiver of the state prison health care system, mandated that the beds be added and has authority to determine where the beds will be added and what services they will provide (Office of the Governor release, 5/3).
Overall, the legislation calls for a total of 40,000 new beds to be added to the state prison system and 13,000 new beds to be constructed in county jails. Construction can begin immediately, and Schwarzenegger said that he expects the project to be completed within 18 months (Sacramento Bee, 5/4).
The legislation is intended to curb a lawsuit seeking to cap the state prison population (Martin, San Francisco Chronicle, 5/4). Lawyers argued that overcrowding in the state prison system is hindering the state's ability to provide proper medical care.
U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton delayed until June a request by inmate rights lawyers to appoint a three-judge panel to recommend options that include a population cap and early release of inmates (California Healthline, 12/13/06).
At next month's hearing, inmate rights attorneys in the case plan to argue that a population cap still is warranted (San Francisco Chronicle, 5/4).