Schwarzenegger Rejects Previous Agreement for Prison Hospital Beds
On Thursday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) backed away from an earlier agreement to allocate $1.9 billion for long-term health care for prison inmates, the Sacramento Bee reports (Furillo, Sacramento Bee, 6/26).
Last month, federal receiver J. Clark Kelso and Corrections Secretary Matthew Cate announced a tentative agreement to build two new long-term health care facilities to house 3,400 inmates.
Kelso's original plan called for building seven medical centers to house 10,000 inmates at a cost of about $6 billion, but the receiver dialed back his proposal in response to the state's fiscal condition (Thompson, AP/Stockton Record, 6/25).
In 2005, U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson of San Francisco removed the prison health system from state control in response to claims that California was not meeting constitutional standards. The court also declared that one inmate per week was dying as a result of inadequate health care (Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 6/26).
A settlement on the prison health plan could have ended a slew of legal action between the state and Kelso over the court receivership and state prison funds (AP/Stockton Record, 6/25).
Tightening California's Belt
In a statement, Schwarzenegger said, "We cannot agree to spend $2 billion on state-of-the-art medical facilities for prisoners while we are cutting billions of dollars from schools and health care programs for children and seniors" (Office of the Governor release, 6/25).
In a letter to Kelso, Cate wrote that California "cannot at this time become further indebted for correctional health care" (AP/Stockton Record, 6/25).
However, Cate also acknowledged that the earlier agreement would not have deepened California's estimated $24.3 billion budget deficit because the inmate health care funds would have come from hospital bonds and already appropriated prison construction funds.
Kelso's office declined to comment on the matter (San Francisco Chronicle, 6/26).
Earlier this month, U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Karlton said California would have three months to develop an alternative plan if it rejected the initial prison health agreement.
Karlton said that unless the state introduces a plan "with real money, â¦ I'm going to start eating into their budget in a real dramatic way."
The dispute could reach the U.S. Supreme Court because Schwarzenegger's administration had pledged to file an appeal if federal judges order California to release funds for prison health care (AP/Stockton Record, 6/25).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.