Overcrowding Hurts Health Care at Women’s Prisons
An influx of inmates at two women's prisons in Chowchilla has put a strain on health care services at the overcrowded facilities, the Sacramento Bee reports.
The populations at Valley State Prison for Women and the Central California Women's Facility increased by 8% after state prison officials in April began transferring 600 female inmates from a facility in Norco. As a result, both prisons now house more than twice the number of inmates they are designed to hold.
Officials at Valley State were forced to shut down a preventive care clinic to focus on immediate care because of growing demand by inmates.
Daun Martin, Valley State's acting health care manager, said the prison is providing the care required under law, but only because medical staff members are working overtime.
Robert Sillen, the court-appointed receiver overseeing California's prison health care system, said that medical care at Valley State is "already at a crisis stage" and that the recent surge of inmates "may well cause the medical delivery system at (the prison) to collapse entirely."
Wendy Still, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's associate director for female offender programs, said state officials are responding to Sillen's concerns.
Rachael Kagan, Sillen's spokesperson, said Valley State later this summer should get new vehicles to transport inmates to off-site hospitals and clinics.
Sillen also is reviewing the prison's request for 17 more nurses and one physician. Valley State currently has five full-time physicians, six nurse practitioners and more than 30 nurses.
State corrections officials plan to transfer thousands of inmates from California's three women's prisons to several community-based facilities, a move that is intended to improve access to rehabilitation services.
Legislation calling for such a plan has been opposed by the Service Employees International Union Local 1000, which argued that the move could result in "privately operated facilities that lack proper oversight" (Schultz, Sacramento Bee, 7/9).