The troubled California state prison health care system may have improved enough to end six years of federal court oversight. U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson, who placed the 33-prison system under control of a receiver in 2006, said “the end of the receivership appears to be in sight.”
Back in 2006 it should be recalled that health care for the state’s nearly 160,000 inmates was so bad that an average of one prisoner a week died for lack of good health care.
A separate federal lawsuit in Sacramento has been pending for more than 14 years contending similar substandard care for the mental health of inmates.
Despite Henderson’s three-page order this week telling both sides in the case to discuss plans for ending the receivership, it remains unclear just what it will take.
Henderson ordered both sides to file a joint report before April 30, 2012, telling how they would measure “substantial compliance” with court-ordered improvements, and criteria for moving the receiver to a less intrusive oversight job.
They are welcome to get the help of receiver Clark Kelso in negotiating the terms, Henderson said.
Henderson was part of a three-judge panel that oversaw a request to lower the prison overcrowding as a means of gaining health care improvements. The panel ordered the state to reduce prison population from the peak of 160,000 to 110,000 by spring 2013.
Currently, the prison has trimmed the inmate population to roughly 135,000 in large part under a realignment program that sends the lowest level inmates to county jail facilities and gives local counties control of parole.
Case: Plata v. Brown, No. C01-1351TEH