California’s bid to end U.S. control of prison healthcare denied


SACRAMENTO — A judge has 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. California officials have “not always cooperated with, and have sometimes actively sought to block, the receiver’s efforts.”


The receivership was imposed when Henderson said prison healthcare was unconstitutionally poor 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, it asked for six months. That was turned down in Wednesday’s order.

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

State officials respectfully disagree with the judge, said Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. “The state has demonstrated through its progress in its medical delivery, and recent success in mental and dental health delivery, that it has the will, the leadership and capacity to resume full responsibility,” she said in a statement.