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State, advocates disagree on future of prison healthcare

May 7, 2012 |  7:05 pm

State, advocates disagree on future of California prison healthcare

Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration is sharply at odds with inmate advocates and a federal receiver over the future of the prison medical system, a new court filing showed Monday.

The document was submitted after the federal judge overseeing the case asked each side to present its proposals for how to end six years of federal control of inmate healthcare.

State officials said they’re ready to take back control of the medical system in the next 30 days. But the receiver said he should remain in charge until at least early 2014.

In the court filing, the Brown administration argues that healthcare has been “wholly transformed” in recent years. In addition, officials said, the ongoing reduction in the inmate population -- the result of a separate court order -- has made it easier to provide better medical care because prisons are less crowded.

“The time has come to return California’s prison medical care system back to California,” the administration said. It added that “the imposition of a federal receivership disrupts democratic principles by shifting control away from the state, makes managing prison affairs more difficult and imposes additional fiscal costs.”

Officials said an independent monitor, known as a special master, could track progress.

But the inmate advocates who originally sued the state over poor medical care said the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation still lacks the will, resources and leadership to prevent the system from backsliding. The prison healthcare system was once considered so poor that the judge said it constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

The receiver, J. Clark Kelso, said his control should not be ended until more improvements have been made. That includes lowering the inmate population to court-ordered limits, finishing a new medical facility in Stockon and making headway on other construction projects.

Photo: An inmate is examined at a prison in Tracy. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

RELATED:

Federal oversight of state prison healthcare to end

Officials announce sweeping overhaul of California prisons

Inmate advocates question state's commitment to prison healthcare

-- Chris Megerian in Sacramento
twitter.com/@chrismegerian

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