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Healthcare behind bars

February 17, 2009

Re "Shame of the prisons," editorial, Feb. 12

The Times fails to acknowledge the progress in improving inmate healthcare, which is the underlying issue before the federal courts.

A few years ago, there were allegations that an inmate a week was dying because of neglect. Last year, the federal courts' receiver said that only three prison inmate deaths were preventable. In recent years, there were claims sick inmates lacked access to outside hospitals. Today, the receiver cites over-utilization of such services. In 1995, California spent $341 million on inmate healthcare. This year, the receiver is requesting $2.2 billion on healthcare alone -- not counting the billions he is demanding for new facilities.

A mass release of felons would compromise public safety with no guarantee of improving inmate healthcare. This administration will be appealing any inmate-release order. It is time to turn control of the prison system back to those who are accountable to the people of California.

Matthew Cate

Sacramento

The writer is secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

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