Federal oversight of prison health care in California is nearing an end, a judge said yesterday, six years after he ruled that abysmal medical conditions were contributing to an inmate death every week, reports the Los Angeles Times. U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson said health care in state lockups has improved significantly since he seized control of the system, a move that has cost taxpayers billions of dollars.
Henderson directed state officials, receiver J. Clark Kelso, and an inmate advocacy group that sued the state over prison conditions to meet and file a report by April 30, spelling out how to go forward. The parties will have to determine how progress will be measured, sustained and monitored. Donald Specter of the Prison Law Office, the inmate advocacy group, warned that progress could be fleeting. "I'm very worried about the state backsliding, especially in times when money is tight," he said. Specter said medical care in some prisons remains poor despite improvements, and he criticized the state for stalling the construction of new facilities.