Prison Health Care Official Seeks More Authority
California's prison medical receiver Robert Sillen on Tuesday filed a report in federal court that blamed prison overcrowding for deterring his efforts to improve health care for inmates, the AP/Orange County Register reports (AP/Orange County Register, 5/15).
The plan was filed with U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson. Henderson last year appointed Sillen to oversee health care reforms to state prisons (California Healthline, 5/14).
Sillen's report criticized prison reform legislation (AB 900) signed into law earlier this month for providing no guarantee that freed-up beds would not quickly be taken by inmates entering the system (Garcia, San Jose Mercury News, 5/16).
Sillen said those "who think population controls will solve California's prison health care problems are simply wrong." He added, "The cure to existing health care problems will be difficult and costly to implement, regardless of population-control efforts" (AP/Orange County Register, 5/15).
Sillen also said that vacancies for 2,400 to 2,700 correctional officers are further impeding his efforts to improve the health care system. He asked Henderson to give state corrections officials 15 days to decide whether Sillen could assume direct oversight over the recruitment and hiring of correctional officers (Furillo, Sacramento Bee, 5/16).
Adam Mendelsohn, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) communications director, said, "We appreciate Mr. Sillen's input but believe he should focus on the issue in which the court has given him jurisdiction and allow the governor and his new management team to implement the reforms adopted just three weeks ago" (San Jose Mercury News, 5/16).
Moreover, in a filing responding to a motion to consider a cap on the state prison population, state attorneys argued that Henderson should not refer the matter to a three-judge panel because "insufficient time has passed" to assess whether overcrowding is impeding Sillen from overhauling the prison health care system (Furillo, Sacramento Bee, 5/17).