KPCC News In Brief

Federal receiver nears discounted deal on prison medical care

The federal receiver in charge of improving medical care in California prisons says he’s close to a deal with state officials on how to proceed. KPCC’s Julie Small reports this new plan would cost billions less than earlier proposals.

Julie Small: A year ago, federal receiver Clark Kelso announced he wanted $8 billion to upgrade prison medical facilities – and to build seven new ones. His goal was to provide 10,000 medical beds for prisoners with chronic conditions.

State lawmakers and prison officials howled at the cost. The budget crisis virtually guaranteed Kelso wouldn’t get what he wanted. But now he says he can get the job the done with just a couple new hospitals for less than $2 billion.

The facilities would treat 3,400 inmates – far fewer than his earlier plan. But Kelso says he can compensate if he renovates more prison medical facilities already in place. Last year, Kelso asked a federal judge to hold the governor and other state officials in contempt for refusing to release the money he needed to build new prison hospitals.

The Schwarzenegger administration countered that move by asking a federal judge to dismiss Kelso. If the judge and state lawmakers agree to Kelso’s new plan, the court fight will be over – and the rebuilding can begin.

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May 2009

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