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California prison receiver asks court to order $8b for prison health facilities

[JURIST] California's court-appointed prison medical overseer J. Clark Kelso [official profile] has asked the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website] to force the state to pay $8 billion over the next five years to improve prison hospitals, according to court papers filed Wednesday. Kelso has previously said that California prisons [JURIST news archive] need an influx of $7 billion to bring inmate healthcare up to constitutional standards, but that the state senate has been unwilling to authorize a bond to borrow money for the project. Kelso appealed to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger [official website] to use his emergency powers to raise the needed funds [JURIST report], but has more recently accused him of also failing to heed a federal order to secure the money. On Monday, Schwarzenegger himself filed a lawsuit [Mercury News report] seeking to reduce many state employees' pay to federal minimum wage in an effort to force legislators to meet budget deadlines. The San Francisco Chronicle has more.

In January, a federal judge ruled [PDF text; JURIST report] that the healthcare provided in California prisons does not meet constitutional standards even though medical services have improved significantly since the court assumed oversight [JURIST report] of the system in 2005. 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]. 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.

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