Prison Health Care Receiver Discusses Reform Efforts
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and the Legislature during the recent special sessions did not allocate any additional prison beds for medical and mental health care, Robert Sillen, federal receiver in charge of reforming the state's prison health system, said in an interview Thursday on KPBS' "KPBS News." The interview was the third segment of a three-part series on the California's prison system (Brown, "KPBS News," KPBS, 9/21).
The Schwarzenegger administration in August announced its support for a plan to allocate some new prison beds for medical and mental heath care.
Acting Corrections Secretary James Tilton in August said officials are considering a tentative plan that would create four to six facilities with a total of 5,000 medical beds and 5,000 mental health beds. Tilton said that the facilities could be built near existing prisons and that the availability of medical staff throughout the state will be a major factor in determining where to create the facilities (California Healthline, 8/16).
U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson appointed Sillen as receiver in February to oversee changes in the prison health system (California Healthline, 9/13).
Sillen said, "In the long term, what we in the medical care have to do is build a sufficient numbers of beds and facilities to adequately care for prisoners," adding that the lack of an adequate medical care system for prisoners is "unconstitutional, cruel and unusual punishment."
California "cannot build its way out of this dilemma, and, obviously, on a political basis they're not willing to deal with what needs to be dealt with in order to relieve the overcrowding to any significant degree," Sillen said ("KPBS News," KPBS, 9/21).
The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer. Transcripts of part one and part two of the KPBS prison series are available online.