Embattled California prison health officials acknowledged widespread problems in providing inmates with adequate medical care and said they are taking major steps to overhaul the $1.1 billion system, says the San Jose Mercury News. Dr. Renee Kanan, the top corrections health official, testified in federal court that in the past year her agency has started to upgrade its staffing by removing about 10 percent of the 261 physicians employed in prisons. She said efforts are under way to improve poor sanitary conditions and other problems at San Quentin State Prison.
“We care and we are working very diligently,” Kanan told U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson. He will decide whether to name a federal official to manage the state’s prison health system, including hiring and firing authority over its 6,000 care workers. A court settlement requires California’s 32 prisons to provide adequate health care by 2008. The lawsuit charged that the prisons’ poor medical care violated the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.