The battle over California prison inmates’ constitutional rights has come down to this: finger-pointing over who dreamed up the idea of giving convicted criminals taxpayer-funded bingo and yoga rooms, according to the Los Angeles Times. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown have lambasted efforts by J. Clark Kelso, the court-appointed overseer of prison healthcare, to spend $8 billion on a “gold-plated utopian hospital plan” for 10,000 inmates. It features a “holistic” environment with natural light and space for yoga, music, horticulture and art therapy.
On Tuesday, Kelso fired back, saying that the facilities are meant for mentally ill inmates, and that he had simply followed the state’s example for treating them. The evidence? Sexual predators forced to live at Coalinga State Hospital, which opened on Schwarzenegger’s watch, have access to an electronic bingo board, a state-of-the-art gymnasium with a rubberized floor, a weight room and eight landscaped atriums. A state spokeswoman said the Coalinga design was based on a federal court settlement on constitutional standards for treatment of the mentally ill in institutions. The back-and-forth comes as the state chafes against court control of its prison medical care, seized in 2006 by U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson, who said the system was so poor that inmates were dying unnecessarily.