Newspapers Address State Prison Health System, Receivership
The San Francisco Chronicle on Tuesday examined the state's prison system, including a recent decision by a federal judge who ordered that a federal receiver take control of the system's health services (Sterngold/Martin, San Francisco Chronicle, 7/5).
As part of his decision, U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson said he soon will issue a written order outlining details of the receivership, adding that he will begin discussing potential receivers with lawyers in the case. The receiver will report directly to Henderson and will have the authority to order fixes that have been delayed by Civil Service rules, collective bargaining agreements and bureaucratic processes.
Henderson indicated that the receiver probably will have the ability to fire incompetent doctors and hire to fill vacancies that have been open for years (California Healthline, 7/1).
According to the Chronicle, up to 30% of physician jobs at California prisons are vacant and longer sentences are producing an aging prison population with more health care needs.
Addressing the high vacancy rates for medical staff, "who must work under difficult conditions, will require heavy spending for recruitment, as well as bonuses and other incentives," the Chronicle reports.
Some prison physicians "are furious," saying they are "unfairly blamed for the problems when they have to work in deplorable conditions and are badly overworked," according to the Chronicle (San Francisco Chronicle, 7/5).
The San Diego Union-Tribune on Tuesday profiled the Prison Law Office, a group of attorneys "trying to protect the civil rights of California inmates and improve conditions behind prison walls."
The recent court ruling stems from a 2000 lawsuit filed by the group. In 2002, the state settled with the group and agreed to a series of medical reforms in prisons statewide.
In the past, the group has initiated "major, and often costly, improvements on a wide range of issues, from psychiatric care of inmates to use of force by guards," according to the Union-Tribune (Schmidt, San Diego Union-Tribune, 7/5).
In other prison news, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) on Friday announced the appointment of five members to the newly created Corrections Standards Authority, which will establish the minimum standards at state and local prison facilities for health and sanitary conditions, fire and life safety and rehabilitation programs, among other areas.
The appointees include:
- Pamala Gilyard, a supervising probation officer for Juvenile Court Services. Gilyard is registered as "declined-to-state" party affiliation;
- Gary Penrod (R), sheriff of San Bernardino County;
- Michael Prizmich (R), sheriff-coroner of Amador County;
- Calvin Remington (D), president of the Chief Probation Officers of California and chair of the Multi-Agency Juvenile Justice Coordinating Council; and
- Mimi Silbert (D), CEO and chair of the Delancey Street Foundation and headmaster of the Life Learning Academy.
Schwarzenegger (R) must "take some responsibility" for the prison health system situation "because of his central role in defeating an initiative last year to reform California's 'three strikes' laws," a Chronicle editorial states.
The editorial continues that "ratcheting up California's prison population ... has brought with it enormous costs" -- as well as the responsibility to provide "decent health care, so that inmates don't die because of poor medical care" (San Francisco Chronicle, 7/4).