California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has disowned a tentative agreement to build prison hospitals to settle lawsuits over shoddy health care for inmates, saying the state won’t borrow $1.9 billion for the effort while it’s slashing other services, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. “It’s just not the right time,” Corrections Secretary Matthew Cate said, four weeks after he announced a plan to build two hospitals for 3,400 inmates, refurbish existing medical centers, and start returning control of prison health care from federal courts to the state. “At this time, we’re going to have to live within our means.”
The health care money would have come from bonds for the new hospitals, and already-appropriated prison construction funds for the renovations to existing medical centers. Yesterday’s development returns the initiative to federal judges, one of whom has already threatened to order the state to spend more on prison mental health care. Another judge has begun contempt-of-court proceedings against Schwarzenegger for defying his order to turn over $250 million that the Legislature has approved for prison construction, but which the state has not allocated.