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Federal oversight of prison healthcare nearing end

January 17, 2012 |  6:22 pm

San Quentin

Six years of federal oversight of prison healthcare in California is nearing an end, a federal judge said Tuesday.

Inmate care has improved substantially, said an order from U.S. District Judge Thelton E. Henderson, and the state should prepare to regain control from the court-appointed receiver. The judge did not say when that should occur.

 “While some critical work remains outstanding--most notably on construction issues--it is clear that many of the goals of the receivership have been accomplished,” Henderson said in a three-page order.

He directed state officials, receiver J. Clark Kelso and the inmate advocacy group that sued the state over the prison conditions to meet and file a report by April 30 spelling out how to go forward.

California officials welcomed the news.

“We have been working very hard to clean up the mess in the prisons, and I appreciate the  judicial recognition of our efforts,” Gov. Jerry Brown said in a statement.

The judge wrote that he expects some level of continued oversight “to sustain the progress that has been and will be achieved.”

Henderson ruled in 2006 that medical conditions in California prisons were so poor that they violated inmates' constitutional rights. An average of one inmate was dying every week because of inadequate care, he found.


March 25, 2009: Federal judge rejects California's plea on prison healthcare

May 11, 2005: Problems in the state's medical treatment of inmates prompt a federal judge to consider appointing a receiver to manage the system.

-- Chris Megerian in Sacramento

Photo: San Quentin Correctional Facility, which advocates said had some of the worst medical conditions. Credit: Eric Risberg / Associated Press