The case that started the federal court’s growing influence on California’s prison system is on the verge of ending, reports the Sacramento Bee. Special master John Hagar said the state has largely fixed the problems that led to the 1990 lawsuit about officer abuse of inmates and other violations at Pelican Bay State Prison. If U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson puts the so-called Madrid case to rest, it would bring an end to a lawsuit that forced the resignation of the state’s top prison official and challenged Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s commitment to fixing California’s correctional system. The case has cost California more than $11 million in fees for attorneys, Hagar, and other experts and $20 million in compliance costs since Henderson found cruel and unusual conditions at the prison in 1995.
In the years since, eight more cases on issues ranging from medical care to parolee rights have brought on additional court monitoring. The total cost to taxpayers so far has been more than $1 billion, with expenses over the next five years projected to exceed $8 billion.California corrrections secretary Jim Tilton called the special master’s filing “huge.” He said Hagar’s determination that the system has largely fixed its internal affairs and officer discipline practices – key components to the use-of-force shortcomings outlined in the Pelican Bay case – restores the agency’s credibility. “In my view, this is a success story,” Tilton said. “But we need to keep on it. Like anything else, if you don’t pay attention to it, things can go backwards.”