Chris Megerian \ Los Angeles Times
California should hold off on building new medical facilities for prison inmates, according to report released Thursday by the legislative analyst’s office.
The report contradicts plans by a court-appointed receiver, who has run the prison health system since a federal judge declared it unconstitutionally inadequate, for $2.3 billion in new clinics and upgrades.
Construction is one of the final sticking points before the state can end six years of federal oversight of inmate medical care. The judge has ordered preparations for returning control to the state, but said the lack of new medical facilities is an ongoing problem.
The state is already building a new facility to provide long-term medical and mental health care in Stockton. But the receiver, J. Clark Kelso, wants to use three former juvenile correctional facilities to provide medical and mental health care to adult inmates, and he wants to spend $750 million on upgrades to existing clinics throughout the 33-prison system.
Although the legislative analyst’s office said some medical facilities remain in “poor condition,” it questioned whether new construction will be necessary. The prison population is declining thanks to realignment, the process of routing low-level offenders to county jails instead of prisons to reduce overcrowding.
“Realignment may make it possible to close some prisons in the future,” the report states. “It would be unwise to make significant infrastructure investments at such facilities at this time…”(Full text at Los Angeles Times)