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Federal judge rules California prison healthcare below constitutional standards

[JURIST] A federal judge ruled [text, PDF] Wednesday that the healthcare provided in California prisons does not meet constitutional standards even though medical services have improved significantly since the court assumed oversight of the system in 2005. US District Judge Thelton Henderson of the Northern District of California acknowledged the progress of the current supervisory team, led by receiver Robert Sillen [official profile], including the hiring of more clinical workers and licensed nurses and increased contracting with outside medical specialists. But Henderson also said that the prison system needs new oversight to help implement planned improvements and to reintegrate prison leadership into the prison system, and he appointed law professor J. Clark Kelso [official profile] as receiver effective immediately to achieve those goals. Efforts to achieve reform bringing the state's prison system up to constitutional standards could take as long as four years, according to officials at the California Health Care Receivership [official website]. Reuters has more. The Los Angeles Times has local coverage.

Henderson appointed Sillen [order, PDF] in February 2006 after assuming oversight of the healthcare system [JURIST report] in 2005. In July 2007, the court ordered the formation of a special three-judge panel [JURIST report] to supervise and reduce California's prison population after finding that California's prison overcrowding was preventing the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) [official website] from adequately providing mental health care. The receivership was designed to oversee the development of remedies for the systematic constitutional violation and to monitor implementation of court-approved remedies. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger [official website] is now considering a mass release of nonviolent prisoners [JURIST report] to help ease the system's financial strains that contribute to the prison system's poor healthcare performance.

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