Supreme Court To Hear Case on Prison Health Care in California
On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear California's appeal of a court order that called for the state to reduce its inmate population by 40,000 to ease overcrowding and improve prison health care conditions, the Los Angeles Times reports (Savage/Williams, Los Angeles Times, 11/29).
Last year, a federal three-judge panel ruled that inadequate medical and mental health care in California's 33 prisons amounted to "cruel and unusual punishment" under the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution (Mintz, San Jose Mercury News, 11/28).
On average, one California inmate dies from inadequate health care every eight days, theÂ Times reportsÂ (Los Angeles Times, 11/29). According to the three-judge panel, prison overcrowding is the root cause of inadequate care.
In last year's ruling, the judges ordered California to reduce its prison population to 137% of capacity, which would require the state to relocate about 25% of its inmates through early release programs or transfers to out-of-state prisons.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and Gov.-elect Jerry Brown (D) both have said the federal court order infringes on California's right to address its own prison overcrowding issues.
Matthew Cate -- secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation -- said the judges have not provided the state with enough time to implement prison reforms (San Jose Mercury News, 11/28).
Supreme Court Hearing
The Supreme Court hearing on California prison overcrowding is expected to receive national attention because it could have implications for other states facing similar problems.
Eighteen states have filed a brief supporting California's appeal,Â arguing that theÂ previous federal court order threatens public safety.
The Supreme Court might opt to address only whether the three-judge panel had the authority to order California to reduce its inmate population. The court might decide not to rule on whether prison overcrowding has led to constitutional violations (Chung/White, Wall Street Journal, 11/29).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.