SACRAMENTO (AP) — California regained responsibility for providing medical care at a second state prison on Thursday as it slowly makes progress toward ending a decade of federal control.
J. Clark Kelso, the federal court-appointed receiver, turned operations at the Correctional Training Facility in Soledad back over to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
The prison holds more than 5,000 minimum and medium security inmates about 140 miles southeast of San Francisco.
Kelso acted despite the lingering concerns of attorneys representing inmates in the long-running class-action lawsuit over poor prison medical care, said Don Specter, director of the nonprofit Prison Law Office. Attorneys and court-appointed experts found continued problems with the quality and type of care being provided, so Kelso and department officials agreed to have the court’s experts review inmates’ care in about six months to see if conditions have improved.
“We kind of reached a middle ground with the state and Mr. Kelso,” Specter said. “Here’s a prison that had some problems, so we’ll see if they can fix them.”
In June, Kelso returned health care at Folsom State Prison to the state. But U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson of San Francisco said a year ago that the state must successfully operate all 34 adult institutions for a year before he considers ending his control.
The Folsom and Soledad prisons were the first two to receive passing grades from the state inspector general last year.
The inspector general has found, however, that a third of the dozen prisons he has inspected still are providing inadequate care. Conditions at four prisons continue to have problems that in some cases are similar to those Henderson found when he determined that an average of an inmate each week was dying of medical malpractice or neglect.
The state has since spent $2 billion for new prison medical facilities, doubled its annual prison health care budget to nearly $1.7 billion and reduced its prison population by more than 40,000 inmates.