Crime & Justice

Prison healthcare tzar sees "no evidence" prisons meet constitutional requirements

The federal receiver in charge of improving health care in California’s prisons dealt a blow to Governor Jerry Brown’s efforts to overturn a prison population cap. In a report filed in federal court Friday, he said there’s “no conclusive evidence” that the state has achieved the minimum required standard of care.

In 2009, a trio of federal judges ruled that severe crowding in California prisons prevented inmates from getting adequate and timely access to doctors and treatment. They ordered California to reduce the population by roughly 44,000 inmates. Today there are 24,000 fewer inmates in the prisons. Brown insisted earlier this month that’s good enough and filed a motion to vacate the population cap.

But in his report to the federal judge who appointed him, Receiver Clark Kelso—called the overcrowding in prisons a 20-year long problem that’s  "chronic, widespread and continuing."

Kelso wrote that when the judges ordered the population reductions they recognized the congestion creates a “cascade of consequences that substantially interferes with the delivery of care."

Kelso also admonished state officials for distorting his acknowledgement of significant progress, as “an endorsement of the State’s position that further compliance with the overcrowding order is unnecessary."

That's just not true, he wrote:  “There is no persuasive evidence that a constitutional level of medical care has been achieved system wide” with a level of crowding significantly higher than what three-judge court ordered.