The SF Examiner just ran an article that characterizes the new construction requested by the draft report for the court-appointed receiver tasked with overhauling the state’s prison health care system as loaded with “plush” “amenities.”
They may be right.
(For the back story on this issue see these posts.)
Here’s the relevant clip:
The recommendations called on the cash-starved state to spend $8 billion on seven new hospitals – each roughly the size of 10 Wal-Mart stores – to replace a decrepit health care system that a federal judge says is killing an average of one inmate per week. Judge Thelton Henderson said state officials were incapable of fixing the system and handed the job to receiver Clark Kelso.
The draft report, posted recently on the receiver’s Web site, said the new hospitals’ environment “should be ‘holistic’ in expression.”
“In the place of sterile prison corridors or barren, large-scale ‘yards,’ both staff and patient should experience landscaped courtyards and places of rest and respite,” the draft said.
The report also suggested that the new prison hospitals include:
– Workout rooms to “promote wellness,” featuring exercise machines and space for “therapeutic activities such as aerobics, yoga, (and) group exercise.” Plus handball courts.
– Outdoor courtyards “where patients will be encouraged to participate in recreational therapy programs such as horticulture.”
– Gymnasiums with a basketball court and a music room, a crafts room, game room and therapy kitchen.
– Outdoor running tracks.
The report also said there should be day rooms for patients featuring a “quiet room for reading and study, as well as a separate room for group TV watching.” Each should include “a liberal use of sound attenuation materials and be designed to maximize natural light to create a normative environment,” the document said.
Those representing Kelso, the federal receiver, say that this is an old draft of the report and that most of the kerfuffle is about mental health treatments that are already required by the courts.
The office of State Attorney General Jerry Brown, who is furious at the whole thing and tried to block it in court, sent the article around to interested press persons, myself included, with an “IN CASE YOU MISSED THIS” note.
From my chilly perch in the wilds of Vermont, I can’t readily tell you if the critics and the SF reporters are shooting at straw men with this howl over “plush prison hospitals,” or whether the requests from Kelso are indeed absurdly excessive.
But I do know two things:
ONE: the state’s prison health care system cannot continue to offer unconstitutional treatment (or lack thereof) that routinely kills an inmate a week. Sorry. That’s how it is.
And TWO: The state is perilously close to broke.
All of which adds up to the fact that the supposed grown-ups in Sac’to need to stop sniping at each other and figure this puppy out.