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Federal receiver says prison crowding does matter

February 22, 2013|By Paige St. John

SACRAMENTO -- The federal receiver in charge of state prison healthcare has offered judges his own take on why crowding continues to be an issue.

In a federal brief filed Friday, J. Clark Kelso presented charts showing that prisons receiving the lowest scores in medical care from his office have average populations that are 55% above their designed capacity. Conversely, those with the best medical care scores averaged populations that were 34% over capacity.

"These numbers make it clear that overcrowding is still having a direct impact upon the ability to deliver quality healthcare," Kelso wrote.

His renewed opposition to California's quest for an end to prison population caps comes in response to the state's own objections that Kelso had included such opinions in his prison medical care status report to the courts.

California contends that even at current populations, with prisons holding on average 50% more inmates than they were designed for, the state is now delivering adequate medical and psychiatric care. A panel of three federal judges is hearing the state's request for an end to population caps, and one of them is presiding over California's motion to terminate court oversight of psychiatric care.

While it withdrew personal criticisms of the federal overseer in that case, the state renewed objections to the amount of money the special master's law firm receives as long as the 17-year case remains alive. "Since 2007, the state has paid the special master and his team an average of $380,000 a month, for a total amount of approximately $23.5 million during that time," Katherine Tebrock, chief deputy general counsel for the corrections department, wrote in her affidavit.

paige.stjohn@latimes.com

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