Dr. Killdare to Cell Block-H!

The Governator is managing to get one or two things right, even as the state spirals towards insolvency. He has been involved in a long running dispute with the courts and a federal receiver who have decided - rather high handedly - that CA's prison health services are constitutionally inadequate and constitute "cruel & unusual punishment." 

The receiver, with the active assistance of the courts, is trying to force CA to spend $8 billion to "improve" prison health care without taking into account (1) CA doesn't exactly have $8 billion lying around and (2) their proposals would leave CA prisoners with access to better health services than many law abiding people. Practically speaking, it's a non-starter, but the court's and the receiver have gotten on their high horse, and have found they enjoy the view.Governor in trouble again on prison health care
A federal appeals court reinstated contempt-of-court proceedings Wednesday against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for defying a judge's order to pay the first $250 million of a multibillion-dollar plan to rebuild the state prison health care system.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson of San Francisco rejected the state's attempt to regain control of the prison health system. Henderson appointed a receiver to manage the system in 2006 after finding that one inmate a week was dying because of inadequate health care and that the state was unable to meet constitutional standards. Schwarzenegger said he would appeal.
The proposed "reforms" are so pie-in-the-sky they are almost a parody of "soft on crime" advocacy. They want to build a 5,000 bed hospital at a cost of $8 billion, for one thing. I don't think anybody is advocating withholding medical care (does that EVER happen? I doubt it). It's difficult to get a sense of what is going on at the prison hospitals. Maybe they are a Dickensian hellholes with prisoners sharing catheters and the like. But, stories of true abuse are hard to come by. Mostly, it seems like the prison hospitals are Spartan and lacking in cooing nurses and brilliant doctors. Is that really a surprise?

I feel like these reformers are approaching things from the wrong direction. Rather than focusing on healthcare, it might be more fiscally prudent - not to mention socially palatable - to look to the health of the individual prisoner. If a prisoner is so terminally ill that he s physically debilitated or needs 'round the clock medical care, it seems silly to keep him in prison. Who is he going to harm if he receives early parole? Occasionally, you hear stories of elderly prisoners with dementia or Alzheimers. Why keep them in prison? Surely they can be better cared for outside prison.

Ah-nuld, meanwhile, is facing a contempt citation for his troubles: 
Henderson said the money was available in a bill the Legislature had approved, and scheduled a hearing in November to hold Schwarzenegger and state Controller John Chiang in contempt of court for withholding the funds. Officials who are found in contempt can be jailed, but Henderson said he planned to assess financial penalties against the state until it complied with his order.
I haven't had much good to say about him the last few months, but I hope he stands firm against this bit of judicial foolishness.

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