Judge says state will slowly regain control of prison healthcare
A federal judge has shot down the state's request to take back control of inmate healthcare within 30 days.
In a decision issued Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson said there is not "sufficient evidence" that the state is ready to handle the prison medical system, which he considered bad enough to be unconstitutional six years ago.
Henderson said the court-appointed receiver who oversees inmate healthcare should begin slowly handing some authority back to the state.
Earlier this month, the state, the receiver and inmate advocates submitted their proposals on how to unwind years of federal control. The state wanted to quickly take back control, while receiver J. Clark Kelso said he should stay in charge until at least 2014.
Even though Henderson rejected the state's plan, his order still means the state will begin taking over more responsibility.
“Although we believe that the receivership is no longer necessary, we are encouraged that the court is directing the receiver to start returning healthcare authority back to the state," said Jeffrey Callison, spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Donald Specter, director of the Prison Law Office, the inmate advocacy group that brought the original lawsuit against the state, welcomed Henderson's decision.
"It’s very important to be careful about this transition," he said. "We’re literally talking about the life or death of prisoners.”
Specter criticized the state's proposal to take back the medical system in 30 days, saying "there was nothing there but a hope and a prayer.”
-- Chris Megerian in Sacramento
Photo: An inmate is led through a construction area at the Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times