The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

November 14, 2008
Prison health care: Have questions for Clark Kelso?

            J. Clark Kelso, the California Prison Health Care Receiver appointed by U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson, will be visiting with The Bee's editorial board on Monday.


            What questions do you think we should ask him?


Some background: With increasingly long prison sentences, California prisons are overcrowded and housing more and more prisoners who are old, sick or dying.


Yet the California prison system has no long-term care beds for prisoners with chronic medical conditions or ongoing physical needs. These inmates (visualize a 63-year-old with a walker or wheelchair taking Alzheimer's medication) are taking up scarce prison beds needed for other prisoners. Currently the prison system has only 800 short-term care medical beds.


The state has known for some time that it needs to build 5,000 prison medical beds and 5,000 prison mental health beds within 10 years for chronically ill, physically impaired, feeble prisoners.


Kelso proposed building seven freestanding, independently managed facilities of roughly 1,500 beds each at existing prisons or on state-owned land. To build these, the Legislature considered a $6.9 billion bond package, but it was killed by Senate Republicans.


The federal courts have been waiting 13 years for California to bring its prison health-care system up to constitutional standards. So when the bond package failed, Kelso asked Judge Henderson to force the state to turn over the money to carry out his duties. The amount is $8 billion from 2008 to 2013.



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About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

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