As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Smear Strategy On Clark Kelso

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown are teaming up, along with most of the political establishment in Sacramento actually, to try and get rid of Clark Kelso. He's the federal prison health care receiver who has been charged by a judge with ending the cruel and unusual punishment in state prisons and bring the medical treatment up to a Constitutional standard. Nobody in Sacramento likes him because he insists on spending money to do that. The argument is that Kelso has already improved prison health care so dramatically that his services are no longer needed. And today, on the same day that Brown and the Administration's officials went to court to get Kelso dismissed, two stories are leaked to the Sacramento Bee painting him in a bad light.

First, they printed an article that might as well have been an amicus brief for the court, both lauding the improvements in health care while assailing Kelso's administrative capacity and costs:

Three years later, prisoners, clinicians and inmate advocates say conditions slowly are changing. Thanks to improvements in clinical staffing, many inmates get skilled, effective treatment. The court-appointed overseer of prison medical care, J. Clark Kelso, maintains that eventually his plans also will save the state billions of dollars.

But a Bee investigation of Kelso's operations found clinical successes tempered by deadly lapses – including a rise in "possibly preventable deaths" and serious errors linked to fatalities. Administrative missteps have jeopardized the availability of specialist doctors. And the cost of the receiver's operations and plans dwarfs spending by other states.

These arguments sound exactly like the dichotomy at the heart of the politicians' case for dismissal - Kelso is good but not good enough, and he's wasting money. Just to prove the point, they added a sidebar claiming that Kelso is overpaying staff:

Given the state's budget woes, the prison health care receivership has raised eyebrows for generous compensation of its employees. A state audit exposed exorbitant salaries in 2007 at the quasi-public agency. Yet enormous salaries remain common.

Last year, seven of 26 staffers – including two part-timers – still were paid more than the $225,000 annual rate earned by corrections chief Matthew Cate. Eight enjoy large Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation pensions on top of their salaries.

And prison doctors and nurses dominate the state's best-paid roster. More than 240 doctors or nurses, state employees overseen by the receiver, were paid more than the $226,359 earned by the state prison department's medical chief.

This just appears conspicuous to me. Leading up to this hearing on Kelso's dismissal, a major newspaper prints two exposés reflecting negatively on him.

State leaders are in no position to whine about money. They caused this crisis and continue to cause it every single day through their gross negligence and failure to rein in out-of-control sentencing of non-violent offenders. The parole system is a mess and increases recidivism. There is a total failure of leadership at all levels, and somehow they're trying to pin this on the independent receiver brought in to fix their failure? I'm all for lowering prison costs, but the best way to do that is to reduce PRISONERS, not give them inadequate facilities or care or rehabilitation and treatment. Sacramento's elite doesn't want to face that, so they Swift-Boat the people who tell them the truth and run away from the real challenges.

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