Just as opposition to the proposed prison hospital in Camarillo was about to reach a boiling point, Federal Receiver J. Clark Kelso said he would slam on the brakes before the project can get off the ground.
After an onslaught of criticism, Kelso said Feb. 3 he would modify his $8 billion prison hospital plans by eliminating mental health care from the proposed facilities, which includes the proposed prison hospital near Camarillo.
The change would cut the number of proposed prison hospitals statewide from seven to three, bumping Camarillo’s hospital off the list of the top three locations.
Kelso disclosed the recommendations amid ongoing criticism by state Attorney General Jerry Brown and the administration of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger over building prisoner facilities that would include luxury accommodations such as therapy rooms, basketball courts and landscaping.
On Jan. 28, Brown called on the federal district court to terminate Kelso’s receivership — and his $8 billion prison construction plan — on the grounds that they violate federal law.
“The court should terminate this unaccountable prison receivership and its $8 billion construction plan, restoring a dose of fiscal reality to the provision of inmate medical care in California,” Brown said. He added that the federal receivership “has turned into its own autonomous government operating outside the normal checks and balances of state and federal law.”
The original plan had called for 10,000 new beds for prisoners in seven facilities across California.
Ventura County District Attorney Gregory Totten supported the motion to terminate Kelso’s plans.
“I fully support the governor and attorney general’s plans to fight the receiver in court” Totten said. “The receiver’s proposal to spend $8 billion to construct seven prison health-care facilities is extraordinarily wasteful at a time when the state is facing a $41 billion deficit.” With the state spending $14,000 per inmate on health-care services, Totten added that it is time to put an end to “a Rolls-Royce prison health care system.”
Following much litigation, California’s prison health-care system was found inadequate in U.S. District Court in September 1995. After the state legislature failed to comply with the court order to correct deficiencies, Federal Receiver Kelso was appointed in 2008 to make changes to the system.