Amid California's budget crisis, the receiver put in charge of the prison health system by a federal judge has spent $82 million on blueprints for medical facilities that have been largely scrapped, more than $50,000 a month on an architectural consultant, and millions hiring medical professionals — more per inmate than in many other states, says the Los Angeles Times. After four years of pouring money into the system, receiver J. Clark Kelso told legislators yesterday he didn't know when the federal oversight might stop and suggested early release of chronically sick inmates as one quick way to cut costs.
Exasperated lawmakers, who pay the bills but have little say in how the funds are spent, questioned whether federal control is making prison health care better. “That's a source of great frustration,” said Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, chairman of the Assembly Committee on Accountability and Administrative Review, who called on Kelso to account for $1.5 billion in budgeted spending for this year. “As we watch the numbers go up, we can't tell if we're any closer to hitting the mark.” California's prison health system fell into receivership in 2006 after a court ruled the state had not done enough to improve conditions since a 2000 ruling said care behind bars amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. There were 48 “possibly preventable” deaths of prison patients in 2006 and 43 in 2009, Kelso says. He said the number dropped from 18 in 2006 to 3 in 2009.