New California Medical Prison Beset By Waste, Mismanagement, Dysfunction


California’s $840-million medical prison, the nation’s largest, was built for 1,800 inmates to help the state emerge from a decade of federal oversight brought on by persistent neglect and poor medical treatment of inmates. Since opening in July, the state-of-the-art facility has been beset by waste, mismanagement and miscommunication between the prison and medical staffs, the Los Angeles Times reports. Prisoner-rights lawyer Rebecca Evenson, checking on compliance with disabled access laws, was shocked by the problems. “This place was supposed to fix a lot of what was wrong,” she said. “But they not only were not providing care, but towels or soap or shoes.”

Reports by prison staff and inmate-rights lawyers described prisoners left in broken wheelchairs and lying on soiled bedsheets. Administrators had to drive into town to borrow catheters from a local hospital. Deborah Hoffman, a corrections department spokeswoman, said problems are unavoidable for any new lockup, and in this case were complicated by the medical prison’s mission. J. Clark Kelso, the court-appointed federal overseer for California’s prison medical system, said the facility’s woes go beyond shortages and missteps. He said a general apathy had set in with the staff. “Because these really basic systems weren’t working, everybody kind of went into an island survival pattern,” he said. Adjusting to dysfunction, rather than fixing it, became “how we do things around here.”

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