California’s new prison “receiver” says fixing the prison medical care system isn’t going to come cheap, the Sacramento Bee reports. “Health care has been a decades-long underinvestment,” J. Clark Kelso said yesterday in his first public speech since he was appointed six weeks ago. “As receiver, I’m going to catch up.” Kelso, addressing a forum sponsored by the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, said he wants to ramp up spending quickly within existing processes in hope of avoiding a “constitutional confrontation” with the state. “Too many people are sick, too many people are dying unnecessarily in California prisons, and there are threats to the public health as a result of some of the practices,” he said.
Kelso, a professor at McGeorge School of Law, is charged with bringing California’s $2 billion prison medical care system into compliance with constitutional guarantees against cruel and unusual punishment. Kelso favors the state’s taking a closer look at issuing more compassionate releases to dying or disabled inmates and said California has to reassess its sentencing policies. The state has 170,000 inmates living in space designed for half that many. His call for more officers runs counter to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposal to reduce prison staffing by 6,000 employees.