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

Friday, May 29, 2009

Prison Health Care Deal Finally Reached

Prior to yesterday, the buzz around the federal prison health care receiver was that he spent half a billion more than budgeted in 2008-2009. As Clark Kelso explained, these were overcharges for out-of-prison hospital care. Because the facilities are so lax and because the proposed money Kelso has consistently sought hasn't arrived, prisoners with medical issues often must be sent offsite. "There's a lot [of inmate care] that does have to be sent out [...] because we don't maintain that level of care within the prison."

That was a message statement. He was essentially saying "and I'll keep going over budget if you don't build the facilities needed." Interestingly enough, the very next day both sides floated a deal that would cut back the amount of prison hospitals to be built, but finally, actually build them.

State corrections officials and the prison system's medical care receiver said Thursday they have reached the outlines of an agreement to build two new long-term health care facilities for inmates at a cost of $1.9 billion.

If the two sides can craft the memorandum of understanding that they say is imminent, it would represent a significant step toward ending the federal oversight of prison medical care in California that has created a constitutional crisis over the past year.

"That's certainly something I believe we can finalize with this deal," federal receiver J. Clark Kelso said in a joint telephone press conference with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary Matt Cate [...]

The facilities would house 3,400 inmates and be bond financed – possibly without having to be approved by the Legislature, according to Cate.

Originally, Kelso had sought a 10,000-bed set of facilities costing $8 billion, so this is significantly cut back. However, it makes some sense if it is accompanied by a reduction in the overall prison population, thus requiring less health care infrastructure. The point that Kelso finally got across is that we can keep delaying and delaying and go massively over budget every year to meet Constitutional responsibilities, or we can build the damn facilities. This looks like a loss for Kelso, but it's a win.

Bonds for infrastructure are at least somewhat inoffensive, but they need to be issued. AB 900 bonds to build more prisons never got issued two years after being approved.

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