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Tuesday, 15 April 2008 00:49

Schwarzenegger’s Prison Health Plan

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slide24.jpgGovernor Arnold Schwarzenegger on Friday asked state lawmakers to approve $6 billion to build new prison medical and mental health centers to care for 10,000 inmates. He is also seeking another $1 billion to upgrade existing prison health care facilities. This could be big news for local prisons like Mule Creek near Ione, which has been suffering under the weight of statewide budget cuts and a recent influenza outbreak. The request, included in a letter to the Legislature's budget committee chairs, is the first time officials have said how much it will cost state taxpayers to improve a prison medical system so poor that it has been ruled unconstitutional. Schwarzenegger's finance director, Michael Genest, said in the letter that the court-appointed federal receiver, J. Clark Kelso, intends to spend $2.5 billion of the borrowed money during the fiscal year that begins July 1.

slide25.jpgIt would go to start building six or seven long-term care facilities outside existing state prisons or on state-owned land. Each of the facilities would serve up to 1,500 inmates. Construction would begin in January and the facilities would be completed by mid-2013 under Kelso's plan. Most of the $7 billion Schwarzenegger is requesting would be borrowed, but $100 million would come from the state's general fund. The governor agrees with Kelso that even as the state struggles with a massive budget deficit, the new spending is necessary "after decades of neglect, (to) get the level of care at the state's correctional system up to a constitutional level of care." U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson of San Francisco seized control of the state's prison health care system two years ago, saying medical care for California's 170,000 inmates was so bad that an average of one inmate each week was dying of neglect or malpractice. Schwarzenegger also has proposed releasing more than 22,000 inmates and eliminating about 4,500 prison guard positions as a budget-cutting move. State senators plan a hearing Monday on how those proposals affect the prison and jail building program the Legislature approved last year. Administration officials said Friday it is too soon to know.

Read 3158 times Last modified on Friday, 28 August 2009 02:05