California’s prison medical czar tried to sell his $8 billion construction plan Tuesday as providing a much-needed financial jolt for a struggling state economy, reports the Sacramento Bee. At the same time, federal receiver J. Clark Kelso said he’s willing to “step back” to examine the scale of his project. Kelso made his comments at a press conference called in part to rebut an internal Corrections Department document leaked to The Bee two weeks ago that criticized his remedial plan as carrying $2.3 billion in annual operating costs.
The receiver has asked state lawmakers to give him $7 billion to build seven, 1,500-bed long-term care facilities for inmates to help resolve four separate federal class-action lawsuits. He’s also asking for another $1 billion to improve health facilities at the state’s 33 prisons. He said Tuesday that California can resolve the lawsuits, stop violating constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment and jump-start the state’s economy in one fell swoop. Kelso said his plan would create 63,800 construction jobs and add 24,250 permanent jobs to the state’s payrolls once they are in operation.