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No More Prison Medical Facilities For California

Aired 2/24/12 on KPBS News.

California’s legislative analyst says the state doesn’t need more prison medical facilities.

A couple years ago state lawmakers agreed to fund a new 1700 bed medical and mental health facility that’s set to open next year in Stockton. It’s for inmates who need around-the-clock nursing care. Inmates with chronic or complex diseases who can still function on their own were to be housed at converted juvenile justice facilities.

“We don’t think that those are going to be needed," said Edwards. Aaron Edwards, who is with the legislative analyst’s office, said realignment changes the equation. “After realignment’s implemented, prison overcrowding is going to be reduced significantly. And as a result it’s going to be a lot easier for the department to deliver adequate care within existing facilities.”

California’s “realignment” law began shifting low-level felons to counties in October. The state’s inmate population has dropped by 16,000 since then. It’s expected to fall by 40,000 inmates within a few years. State lawmakers passed realignment to comply with a federal court order to reduce crowding in prisons. A three-judge panel found that overcrowding prevents inmates from getting adequate medical care. The federal receiver tasked with improving that care has said he still needs the additional medical facilities to treat inmates who require higher-levels of attention than standard prisons can provide.

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