Wednesday Feb 04 2009
Prison med-center plan threatened by state move
By: Roger Phelps, The Telegraph
Governor, attorney general seek ouster of state prison receiver
A monkey wrench seems headed toward the medical-center plan for Folsom State Prison. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown want a judge to dismiss the court-appointed federal receiver who is overseeing a mandated, wide-scale upgrade of California's prison medical operations. Folsom is high on a list of sites preferred by the Receiver's Office to install a total of seven medical facilities. These would serve inmates from around the state and help the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation comply with terms of a legal ruling finding unconstitutional treatment of inmates. The receiver was appointed in 2006. Brown filed a court motion Jan. 28 seeking to replace the Receiver's Office with a special master -- an expert on legal compliance -- and to terminate the receiver's $8 billion construction plan. "The Receiver has made significant progress during his tenure, and as a result, the conditions that led to his appointment have largely been mitigated," said Matthew Cate, corrections and rehabilitation secretary. "The appointment of a Receiver to operate a portion of state government is a remedy of last resort -- it should not continue any longer than is absolutely necessary and legally appropriate." A Folsom medical facility would employ around 1,600 people, half of them correctional officers and half workers in medical and related fields. The recent move by the Schwarzenegger administration to oust the receiver casts doubt on the prospect of the Folsom center's construction. "It's hard to tell about impact on specific projects," said Seth Unger, spokesman for the corrections department. "There's a lot of political and legal forces at work." Receiver J. Clark Kelso has called the state's ouster move "outrageous." Department of Finance Director Mike Genest, whose office recently notified hundreds of construction-project managers around the state that agreed-on state funding would not be arriving, cited "the worst fiscal crisis in recent history" in supporting Schwarzenegger and Brown. In announcing his court filing, Brown said he believed the Receiver's Office had been "spending wildly." Lt. Judy Loer, spokeswoman at Folsom's California State Prison, Sacramento, said she had no knowledge of how an ouster of the prison-system receiver might affect Folsom's maximum-security institution. "We'll have to wait for the word from downtown," Loer said. The Telegraph’s Roger Phelps can be reached at email@example.com.