No quick end to federal control of prison healthcare, judge orders


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A judge has once again rejected the state’s request for a speedy end to federal control of prison healthcare.

In an order issued Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson said he would require tougher reviews than the state wanted before agreeing to dissolve the receivership that has run inmate medical care for six years.


‘Evidence of progress made under the direction and control of the receiver does not constitute evidence of [the state’s] own will, capacity, and leadership to maintain a constitutionally adequate system of inmate medical care,’ Henderson wrote. ‘Indeed, [the state has] not always cooperated with, and have sometimes actively sought to block, the receiver’s efforts.’

The receivership was put in place when Henderson said prison healthcare was unconstitutionally bad and qualified as cruel and unusual punishment. Such concerns eventually led to the court order requiring the state to drastically reduce its prison population.

Earlier this year, the state sought to end the receivership in 30 days. When that request was rejected, they asked for six months. That was turned down in the order issued on Wednesday.

‘The end of the receivership will be based on need and not within a specific timeline,’ said J. Clark Kelso, the receiver, in a statement.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Don Specter at the Prison Law Office, which filed the original lawsuit in the case, said he did not believe the state was ready to handle medical care.

‘It’s a matter of life and death if they don’t do a good job,’ he said.


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-- Chris Megerian in Sacramento