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Admissions closed in California's newest prison

Admissions closed in California's newest prison
A federal receiver has stopped admissions to California's newest prison, built for chronically ill inmates, because of staffing and equipment shortages. (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation)

SACRAMENTO -- Shortages of medical supplies, soap, towels and inadequate staffing levels are cited by a court-appointed official's decision to halt admissions to California's newest prison.

But an inspection by lawyers who represent inmates in class-action litigation against the state say they also found design flaws in the new $839-million building that hinder its use to house chronically ill or disabled inmates.

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The state prison system's court-appointed medical receiver halted admissions to the Stockton prison on Jan. 27. In a court filing Friday, he accused California prison officials of treating the problems interfering with medical care as a "second-class priority."

Lawyers from the Prison Law Office said that in addition to shortages of adult diapers, catheters, and gloves for nurses, they found doors too hard to open, and too narrow to allow wide wheelchairs to pass. They said there were no exercise areas, only concrete patios.

Their report also said the prison lacked equipment for impaired inmates. Lawyers for one prisoner with vision impairment tried over several months to secure him equipment to use to write and read. The report said the inmate was told to use a typewriter that had no ribbon, and an electronic magnifier that remained on order.

California corrections officials say the Stockton prison is unique and that the state is still working out "bugs" in the 6-month-old facility.

"It's not uncommon for new facilities to have stops and starts during the activation process," said department spokeswoman Deborah Hoffman. "This facility is unique in its design, size and mission and is something that no other prison system has ever operated. There have been challenges with the supply chain and some delays in the delivery of products. We are working with the Receiver's Office to rectify those issues."

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