State Retracts Claims Against Prison Mental Health System Monitor
Gov. Jerry Brown's (D) administration has retracted its claim that a federal court-appointed monitor of California's prison mental health care system issued a negative review to draw more revenue for his law firm, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 2/20).
About six years ago, U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson ruled that federal oversight of the state's prison health care system was neededÂ after determining that an average of one inmate per week died as a result of malpractice or neglect.
Last month, Brown's administration filed a request for a federal court to allow the state to regain oversight of the prison system.
The request stated that California has reduced its inmate population and improved prison medical and mental health care.
However, a report issued late last month by Special Master Matthew Lopes said Brown's request to end federal oversight of the state prison system was premature (California Healthline, 1/22).
State's Response To Special Master Report
On Jan. 29, the Brown administration responded to the report with a filing that questioned Lopes' motives. The filing noted that the state has paid nearly $48 million in fees to Lopes and his predecessor since 2006 (San Francisco Chronicle, 2/20).
Lopes' Rhode Island law firm has assigned five lawyers to monitor California's prison mental health system, each of whom bills the state an average ofÂ between $30,000 to $40,000 each month, according to the state (Thompson, AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2/20).
The filing stated, "Perhaps the reason for the critical report is because there is no incentive for the special master to be objective," adding, "Further monitoring ensures that this revenue stream will continue."
Federal Judge's Order
On Feb. 13, U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Karlton issued an order saying that the state had offered no evidence for its "smear against the character and reputation" of Lopes (San Francisco Chronicle, 2/20).
Karlton gave the administration five days to withdraw the allegations or face potential court-ordered sanctions (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2/20).
State Drops Claims
On Tuesday, the administration withdrew its accusations but said in a new filing that continued federal court monitoring "perpetuates the status quo at great cost to a state trying to reverse its financial problems and still fulfill its constitutional obligations."
The administration said federal oversight no longer is needed for a prison mental health care system that is "one of the best in the nation" (San Francisco Chronicle, 2/20).Lopes said that he cannot comment on ongoing cases (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2/20). 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.