A federal judge has taken a major step toward seizing control of California’s prison health care system, says the Los Angeles Times. He said inmates are needlessly dying and state officials cannot stop it on their own. U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson of San Francisco said he may be compelled to appoint “an interim receiver” to manage the system. He called on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration to appear for a July 11 hearing on the plan. “The problem of a highly dysfunctional, largely decrepit, overly bureaucratic and politically driven system, which these defendants have inherited from past administrations, is too far gone to be corrected by conventional methods,” Henderson said.
Three years ago, California settled a class action lawsuit over inmate care by agreeing to make ambitious improvements. The state proposes to spend $6.5 billion on the adult prison system in the coming year, including $1.09 billion on health care for its 163,000 prisoners. Henderson cited a “shocking” report given to him in February detailing “widespread evidence of medical malpractice and neglect” in prisons. Donald Specter of the Prison Law Office near San Quentin State Prison, which filed the suit, said a receiver could force the state to raise the pay of prison nurses to fill vacancies. A receiver could fire incompetent doctors and nurses, something difficult under civil service.