SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – The $8 billion plan to fix what a federal judge called a “shocking” lack of medical care in California’s prisons should not be hidden from the public, the California Attorney General’s Office said in challenging a gag order issued by a federal judge.
The upgrade is part of the settlement in Plata v. Schwarzenegger, a 2002 class action in which U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson agreed with California inmates that the state’s lack of adequate medical care in prisons constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.
Judge Henderson ordered prison officials to overhaul the prison medical system.
In 2005, with prison officials admitting that it would take years to correct the constitutional abuses, Henderson called the state’s prison medical system “broken beyond repair.” He appointed federal receiver J. Clark Kelso to correct what Henderson called the “horrifying” situation, in which one inmate died every six or seven days due to lack of medical care.
Attorney General Jerry Brown said only 23 pages of Kelso’s 917-page proposal warrant protection under the gag order.
The protective order is meant to cover medical records and information that could destabilize prison security. The rest of the proposal describes the seven new prisons that would be built under the plan, Brown said.
Brown also questioned the proposal’s price tag, saying the plan “goes way beyond what the Constitution requires, prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment.”
Brown said the court should not let Kelso secretly seize the money from the state treasury.
“While the receiver may wish to prevent disclosure of his $8 billion plan until it is ‘final,’ he did not wait until it was final to request $8 billion to put his plans into action,” Brown wrote.