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October 19, 2012

For free health care from well-paid medical personnel, commit a serious crime in California

The snarky title of this post is prompted by this new AP story, which is headlined "High pay a costly legacy of Calif. prison receiver."  Here is how it starts:

A doctor at California Medical Facility was paid more than $410,000 last year, while a registered nurse at High Desert State Prison made nearly $236,000 -- more than twice the statewide average in both cases.  A pharmacist at Corcoran State Prison was paid more than $196,000, nearly double what is typical across the state. 

Compensation for medical providers has soared in the prison system since a federal judge seized control of inmate health care in 2006 and appointed an overseer with the power to hire and set pay levels.  As the official begins to wind down his oversight, the medical hiring and salary increases have helped lead to an improvement in inmate care, but it has increased the bill for taxpayers too. 

It has also led to criticism that the official -- called a receiver -- provided a "Cadillac" level of care for convicted felons.  A state review found that only Texas pays its state prison doctors more that California.

"The problem that we had is that the receiver was not accountable to anybody," said former state Sen. George Runner, a Republican who has frequently criticized the program. "So the receiver could just do or choose to spend whatever amount of money he thought was necessary to solve his problem, and unfortunately now the state is stuck with that," he said.

The receiver for medical care, J. Clark Kelso, said the state has been free to collectively bargain health care providers' salaries since a court order increasing their wages expired three years ago.

The receiver's goal was to correct a prison medical system that was ruled unconstitutional for its substandard care and, at one point, contributed to an inmate death each week through negligence or malfeasance.  To do that, the receivership increased salaries, created new positions at high pay and hired hundreds of employees to fill longtime vacancies.

Total spending on medical, dental and mental health care for inmates, numbering 124,700, has more than doubled over the last decade, from $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2003-04 to a projected $2.3 billion this year.  The number of medical, mental health and dental workers in the prisons more than doubled over six years, from 5,100 in 2005, the year before the receivership was created, to 12,200 last year.  More than 1,400 were administrators who don't directly treat inmates, according to a state Assembly oversight committee.

October 19, 2012 at 06:04 PM | Permalink


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Aren't we constantly told that we need to CUT BACK the costs of incarceration? But why should we expect that when it's so easy to spend someone else's (the taxpayers') money?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 19, 2012 6:56:24 PM

Well bill here's another thought. Maybe if the state hadn't broken the law for 20 fucking years. They might have a leg to stand on. But as it stands they ran a prison sytem over 100% over population with not even enough medical staff to handle a normal number so they had 1 human dieing a week. So all i can say is tough shit. If all those who died had families who took them to the clenaers in a civil rights murder trial as the state deserved...it would have cost them a hell of a lot more.

Posted by: rodsmith | Oct 19, 2012 11:47:27 PM

rodsmith --

Either we need to cut back on prison expenses, as we are constantly told, or not. If, as I think, we do, we can't be hiring prison doctors for over $400,000 and nurses for over $200,000. As the article notes, that's more than twice the statewide average.

California is already spending itself into ruin, and this will just hasten the day. People, including prisoners, are going to have to learn to live with less, not more. The nurse mentioned in the piece makes more than the Chief Justice of the United States. That is just flat-out nuts.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 20, 2012 12:23:45 AM

Those are low salaries for the level of skill, and value of service. Law partners make $million, and destroy ten times as much in our economy.

Read the article. Did not answer the following.

1) Has the number of deaths from medical neglect decreased with increased spending?

2) Have these higher levels and costs of staffing led to reductions in other health costs such as outside hospitalization, decreased violent incidents and staff injuries from better control of behavior, less litigation cost? There is usually a 10,000% return on investment in early treatment of medical problems and return of patient to prior level of function.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 20, 2012 8:57:52 AM

not really bill. You have to remember where that nurse is working. The overage can be explained away as combat pay. Last time i used the Chief Justist doesnt' have to worry about getting raped or killed while on duty. Especialy in a systme that at one time was running 100% over cap with no way in hell to keep up with them all.

As for cutting back on prison expense. Well guess what. If we stop packing them to the rafters....it woudn't cost so damn much to keep up with them.

Stop with the prosecution for no victim crimes. Make them a civil matter. Use other sytems for non-violent crimes. For violent and multiple repeat non-violent.. Use a three strikes and your OUT law. Out of this world that is.

Setup a law that is federal and requires automatic execution in those cases. Put it before the nation for a vote. If it passes tell those who have a problem with it. There is only one way to stop it. Vote it out. Any other action is dead.

Posted by: rodsmith | Oct 20, 2012 5:22:07 PM

"Use a three strikes and your OUT law. Out of this world that is."

Rod: Hello to fellow earthling Rodsmith, here in this lawyer, upside down world, Twilight Zone. That simple formula would end violent crime by attrition alone. It requires no deterrent effect, nor is it even a punishment. It is an expulsion, a clean up. It requires no proof because it is well known, the deceased have a low recidivism rate.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 21, 2012 10:51:51 AM

rodsmith --

"You have to remember where that nurse is working. The overage can be explained away as combat pay. Last time i used the Chief Justist doesnt' have to worry about getting raped or killed while on duty."

True, but he has to listen to appellate lawyers talk all morning. Torture comes in various guises.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 22, 2012 12:29:01 PM

A state assessment create that only Texas pays its state prison doctors more than California,

Posted by: dissertation proposal help | Oct 24, 2012 9:22:17 AM

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