Federal health-care oversight should end by 2013
SACRAMENTO – In the wake of a declining prison population resulting from Realignment, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) today released a plan to cut billions in spending, comply with multiple federal court orders for inmate medical, mental health and dental care, and significantly improve the operation of California’s prison system. The plan is titled “The Future of California Corrections: A Blueprint to Save Billions of Dollars, End Federal Oversight, and Improve the Prison System.”
“My goal is to end federal court oversight of medical, mental health and dental care by next year,” said CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate. “This plan builds on the improvements made possible by Realignment. It will go a long way towards making our correctional system more efficient and secure and, at the same time, lower our high recidivism rates.”
CDCR’s plan will:
· Reduce CDCR’s annual budget by more than $1.5 billion upon full implementation, including $160 million dollars in savings from closing the California Rehabilitation Center;
· Eliminate $4.1 billion in construction projects that are no longer needed because of population reductions;
· Eliminate $2.2 billion annually that would have been spent had Realignment not been implemented;
· Return all out-of-state inmates to California by 2016 to bring back jobs and manage offenders closer to home while saving millions in taxpayer dollars;
· Satisfy the U.S. Supreme Court’s order to lower the state’s prison population;
· Satisfy the federal courts that CDCR has achieved and maintained constitutional levels of medical, mental health and dental care to avoid costly oversight;
· Incorporate a standardized staffing formula to better manage staff levels and cost;
· Improve the classification system to provide proper inmate housing placement and reduce the reliance on costly high-security facilities.
This plan ends a long-term uptick in corrections costs. CDCR accounted for just three percent of General Fund spending 30 years ago, which increased to 11 percent in FY 2008-09. CDCR’s plan will lower it to 7.5 percent in FY 2015-16. When realignment is fully implemented, CDCR expenditures will drop by 18 percent overall.
CDCR has responded to a string of class-action lawsuits dating back to 1990 challenging the levels of medical, mental health and dental care for inmates. In 2006, federal courts appointed a federal court-appointed Receiver to bring health care up to constitutional standards. Mental health care is overseen by a Special Master and dental care is monitored by Court Experts.
“CDCR has made substantial progress in assuring the courts that it is providing Constitutionally-mandated levels of care to inmates,” said Cate. “We are committed to ending federal oversight of our prisons’ healthcare systems.”
The courts have indicated that California is making vast improvements and is on track to end the Receivership. Earlier this year, a federal judge cited “significant progress” in medical care delivery and wrote that “the end of the Receivership appears to be in sight.” The court also called for negotiations to take place on returning health care authority to CDCR.
Similar progress is being made in other aspects of prison health care. Mental health bed waiting lists that were once hundreds of patients long have fallen sharply or been eliminated. Dental care has improved markedly as well, with 30 out of 33 prisons having passed audits of their dental program and the remainder expected to pass soon.
Many of the improvements are due to the reduction in prison overcrowding made possible by Public Safety Realignment signed into law by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. last year.
Since Public Safety Realignment took effect, CDCR’s offender population has dropped by approximately 22,000 inmates and 16,000 parolees. Overcrowding has been reduced from a high of more than 200 percent of design capacity to just 155 percent today. The thousands of makeshift beds in gymnasiums and dayrooms that CDCR had been forced to use for years are now gone.
“Realignment has given California a historic opportunity to invest in a prison system that is not just less crowded, but more efficient, while saving billions of state taxpayer dollars,” said Cate.
CDCR’s spring population projections suggest that the department may fall just short of meeting the final court-ordered crowding-reduction benchmark. In June 2013, the department’s prison population is projected to be at 141 percent of design capacity rather than the 137.5 percent goal set by the federal Three-Judge Court and affirmed by the Supreme Court. The measures proposed in this plan will allow the state to seek and obtain a modification of the order to raise the final benchmark to 145 percent of design capacity. In its order, the Supreme Court anticipated this as a possibility and said the state “will be free to move” the court for modification.
“We are confident that this plan will satisfy the court’s order,” said Cate.
To read or download a copy of the plan “The Future of California Corrections: A Blueprint to Save Billions of Dollars, End Federal Oversight, and Improve the Prison System”, go to www.cdcr.ca.gov.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 23, 2012
Contact: Jeffrey Callison