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Federal judge orders California to give stance on money for prison health care

[JURIST] A federal judge on Wednesday ordered the administration of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger [official website] to give its position on providing $250 million this year toward the $8 billion needed to reform the state's prison health care system. US District Judge Thelton Henderson [official profile] of the Northern District of California [official website] said the administration must provide details of when and how the money will be disbursed to the court-appointed prison medical overseer, J. Clark Kelso [official profile]. In August, Kelso asked the court [JURIST report] to force the state to pay $8 billion over five years to improve prison hospitals. Kelso had previously said that the California Senate was unwilling to authorize borrowing money for the project. He appealed to Schwarzenegger to use his emergency powers [JURIST report] to raise the needed funds but has accused the governor of failing to heed a federal order to secure the money. The administration is scheduled to present its response during a hearing on October 27. AP has more. The San Francisco Chronicle has additional coverage.

In January, a federal judge ruled [PDF text; JURIST report] that the health care 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 system up to standards could take as long as four years, according to officials at California Prison Health Care Services [official website]. Last year, the court created a three-judge panel [JURIST report] to oversee the reduction of California's prison population after finding that overcrowding was preventing the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) [official website] from providing adequate mental health care.

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