Schwarzenegger Administration Seeks To End Prison Receivership
On Wednesday, California Attorney General Jerry Brown (D) filed a motion in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California asking the court to end California's prison health care receivership and terminate the receiver's plans to build new medical facilities and renovate existing facilities, the Sacramento Business Journal reports.
Federal receiver J. Clark Kelso has proposed building seven new prison health care facilities as part of his effort to bring health care in state prisons up to a constitutional level of care (Anderson, Sacramento Business Journal, 1/28).
Kelso's plan entails spending $6 billion on new buildings, $1 billion to upgrade existing medical clinics at prisons and $1 billion for dental care improvements (Buchanan, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/29).
Kelso requested that the Legislature provide $3 billion for the plan in the current fiscal year, at a time when the state is facing a $42 billion budget deficit through mid-2010 (White, Wall Street Journal, 1/28).
U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson removed the prison medical system from state control more than two years ago after concluding that health care did not meet constitutional standards (California Healthline, 11/18/08).
In the complaint, Brown argued that Kelso's order violates the federal Prison Litigation Reform Act, which he said bars federal courts from mandating prison construction (Richman, Oakland Tribune, 1/28).
Brown said, "The court should terminate this unaccountable prison receivership and its $8 billion construction plan, restoring a dose of fiscal reality to the provision of inmate medical care in California."
Brown said Kelso's plans are extravagant because of the inclusion of various aesthetic features and perks, such as high ceilings and yoga rooms.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) said the receiver has "gone too far" in his plans "over the last several months, especially considering the economic realities of these times." The governor called for oversight of prison health care to be returned to the state (Sacramento Business Journal, 1/28).
Capitol Weekly reports that Brown and Schwarzenegger advocated appointing an interim Special Master to "conduct hearings and make proposed findings" (Capitol Weekly, 1/29).
Kelso said he has planned to wind down the receivership.Â He said his current plans call for transferring oversight of prison health care back to the state in three to four years, once construction has been completed on the facilities he proposed (Herdt, Ventura County Star, 1/29).
Kelso said that the independent California Office of Inspector General has concluded that prison health care falls short of constitutional standards in at least half of the required measures (Oakland Tribune, 1/28).Â
The ninth circuit is scheduled to hear arguments on Feb. 12 (Sacramento Business Journal, 1/28).
The Tribune reports that the case is "probably intended for eventual consideration by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals" because approving the order would require Judge Henderson to reverse his previous orders creating the receivership (Oakland Tribune, 1/28).
Next month, two other cases dealing with prison health care will go before judges.Â
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will consider Brown's challenge to an order that requires the state to provide the receivership with $250 million toward Kelso's construction plan, and a separate three-judge panel will consider whether some inmates should be released because of overcrowding (San Francisco Chronicle, 1/29).Â
The latter suit maintains that overcrowding is the key factor undermining the prison health care system (Walsh, Sacramento Bee, 1/29).
On Wednesday, KPCC's "KPCC News" reported on Brown's motion (Mitric, "KPCC News," KPCC, 1/28).
Capital Public Radio's "KXJZ News" also reported on the motion (O'Mara, "KXJZ News," Capital Public Radio, 1/28).In addition, KQED's "The California Report" included a segment on Brown's request on Wednesday's show (Kim, "The California Report," KQED, 1/28). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.