Prison Medical Receiver Rejects State Reform Plan
The chief of staff for California's prison medical receiver on Thursday informed prison medical staff to ignore any orders from a "strike team" established earlier this month by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) to oversee the construction of new prison facilities, the Sacramento Bee reports.
John Hagar, chief of staff for Robert Sillen, told the Division of Correctional Health Care Services staff that they "are working under the direction of the receiver" and that they "are not obligated to follow the instructions" issued by the corrections secretary regarding the strike team.
Schwarzenegger on May 11 established two strike teams to oversee the construction of new prison facilities and other reform efforts that are part of his $7.9 billion prison construction and rehabilitation plan.
The plan includes funding for 8,000 medical and mental health beds for inmate patients. Sillen has called for the construction of 5,000 new medical beds.
Rachael Kagan, spokesperson for Sillen's office, said, "Medical [staff] in the prisons don't report to the (corrections) secretary -- they report to the receiver." She added, "They carry out assignments given to them by the receiver."
Oscar Hidalgo, spokesperson for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said the department is not trying to bypass Sillen's authority and is awaiting his proposal for new hospitals on prison sites. He added, "We're ready to implement his vision on what the hospitals should look like and where they should be located."
In related news, two federal judges on Tuesday issued a joint order to vacate hearing dates related to a proposed population cap on the state's prison system.
U.S. District Judges Lawrence Karlton and Thelton Henderson are overseeing two cases in which inmate rights' lawyers argue that prison overcrowding is straining efforts to improve mental health and medical conditions and bring the health system into constitutional compliance.
The lawyers in both cases are asking the judges to establish three-judge panels that would consider a population cap for California's prison system.
The judges have asked attorneys to respond by next Tuesday on why motions in the two cases should not be heard jointly (Furillo, Sacramento Bee, 5/30).