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Supplement: PRISONS

Posted: January 20, 2008, Supplement

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Big Prisoner release plan, 12-21-07

Madrid case over? 10-25-07

Needless prison deaths continue, 9-20-07

Valley Fever: 10% infected at pleasant valley prison, 9-9-07

Folsom staph, 8-29-07


prison links


1) The Articles linked below were Abstracted from the sources cited. After the abstract there's analysis and commentary, links to related articles, and a link to the database with suggested search terms.

Big prisoner release plan

Schwarzenegger proposing to free 22,000 low-risk offenders early

By Andy Furillo -

Published 12:00 am PST Friday, December 21, 2007


In what may be the largest early release of inmates in U.S. history, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration is proposing to open the prison gates next year for some 22,000 low-risk offenders.


According to details of a budget proposal made available to The Bee, the administration will ask the Legislature to authorize the release of certain non-serious, nonviolent, non-sex offenders who are in the final 20 months of their terms.


The proposal would cut the prison population by 22,159 inmates and save the cash-strapped state an estimated $256 million in the fiscal year that begins July 1 and more than $780 million through June 30, 2010. The proposal also calls for a reduction of more than 4,000 prison jobs, most of them involving correctional officers.

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2) The Articles linked below were Abstracted from the sources cited.

Massive prison case could be ending

A court filing indicates the finale is near for historic lawsuit against system.

By Andy Furillo -

Published 12:17 am PDT Thursday, October 25, 2007


The case that started the federal court's growing influence on California's prison system looks like it's about to be gaveled into history.


In a court filing, special master John Hagar said the state has largely fixed the problems that led to the 1990 lawsuit about officer abuse of inmates and other violations at Pelican Bay State Prison. Hagar said he "may be in a position" in January to recommend that the Madrid case be terminated.


If U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson puts Madrid to rest, it would bring an end to a landmark case that forced the resignation of the state's top prison official and challenged Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's commitment to fixing California's correctional system.


It also would mark the finish of a case that has cost California more than $11 million in fees for attorneys, Hagar and other experts and $20 million in compliance costs since Henderson found cruel and unusual conditions at the North Coast prison in his epic January 1995 ruling.


In the years since, eight more cases on issues ranging from medical care to parolee rights have brought on additional court monitoring. The total cost to taxpayers so far has been more than $1 billion, with expenses over the next five years projected to exceed $8 billion.

In his 10-page filing on Oct. 12 that signaled the upcoming demise of the Madrid case, Hagar noted that he still has concerns about the corrections agency maintaining long-term progress. But overall, he found the agency had "achieved substantial compliance" in developing "an overall effective use of force/code of silence related investigation and discipline program."


"Assuming this progress continues, the Special Master may be in a position to present findings to the Court in January 2008 upon which to terminate the (use of force) element of the Madrid remedial plan," Hagar wrote.

Henderson's 1995 ruling found that prison officials were violating inmates' constitutional rights in the use of force and in medical and mental health care. The judge also ruled against the prison housing mentally ill prisoners in its highest-security housing unit.


Although the housing issue has been resolved for years, the other three issues have lingered, and the use-of-force matter exploded into controversy in 2003 when Hagar conducted an investigation that accused the system of botching a perjury investigation of three officers. The controversy resulted in the forced resignation of former Corrections Director Ed Alameida. It also led Henderson to expand Hagar's monitoring authority to include internal affairs and officer discipline across the state.

Steve Fama, an attorney with the Prison Law Office that won the Pelican Bay case, said he still has some concerns and that the state "doesn't yet have a statewide policy that sets ground rules" on the use of force.


"I appreciate the efforts that have been done," Fama said. "However, the special master points out it could change in very short order."

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3) The Articles linked below were Abstracted from the sources cited.

Deadly medical lapses in prison

'Systemic failure' puts even those with asthma at risk, a report finds.

By Tim Reiterman

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer


September 20, 2007,0,1280850.story?coll=la-home-center


SAN FRANCISCO — -- As many as one in six deaths of California prison inmates last year might have been preventable, according to a study of medical care in 32 state lockups that will be used to help rebuild the troubled system.


One inmate, who reported extreme chest pains in the middle of the night, died of a heart ailment after waiting eight hours to see a doctor.


Another who complained for days of severe abdominal pain died of acute pancreatitis after medical staff did not believe his pleas were credible.


A third died after a two-year delay in diagnosis of his testicular cancer.


And an asthma patient died after failing to receive steroid medication for two days following transfer from a county jail.


The report, released Wednesday by the court-appointed receiver in charge of healthcare for the state's 173,000 prisoners, revealed a broad pattern of delays in diagnosis, poor inmate access to doctors and tests, botched handling of medical records, and failure of medical staff to recognize and treat dangerous conditions.


Officials said some lapses led to disciplinary actions against doctors and nurses.


There were 426 deaths in 2006, including 43 suicides, and the study examined 381 of them.


Eighteen deaths were found to be preventable, meaning better medical management or a better system of care would have prevented deaths. An additional 48 were found to be "possibly preventable," meaning better medical management of a system of care might have prevented death.


Of the deaths considered preventable, six were from asthma, which receiver Robert Sillen said he intended to make a priority for reforms.


"The leading cause of [preventable] death being asthma is unconscionable, and it is evidence of systemic problems and problems with individual clinical judgments," Sillen said in an interview. "Adults in 21st century California should not have asthma as a primary cause of death."


As part of a 2001 class-action suit that alleged substandard care of inmates, U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson seized control of prison healthcare.


In 2006, he named Sillen, a former health official from Santa Clara County, to run the medical system and gave him a mandate to elevate treatment to constitutional standards.


Dr. Stuart Bussey, president of the Union of American Physicians and Dentists, which represents prison doctors, said: "We feel that the doctors in [the prisons] have been working in a battlefield situation. They do not have the tools to practice good medicine. The system needs work."


Fixing the entire medical system, Sillen said, could take a decade or longer and cost huge sums of money.


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4) The Articles linked below were Abstracted from the sources cited.

Disease clouds a prison's future

A deadly outbreak of valley fever is sparking doubts about expanding the Pleasant Valley lockup in Fresno County.

By Andy Furillo - Bee Capitol Bureau
Published 12:00 am PDTSunday, September 9, 2007

...four inmates and one staff member at Pleasant Valley have died of valley fever-related illnesses in the past two years.

"I think that prison should be shut down," said his father, Jesse Garcia, a retired Marine sergeant.

Nobody in a position of authority is calling for Pleasant Valley's closure, but some of the prison system's top medical officials and other experts are coming pretty close to it.

They say there likely will be more illness, and possibly death, among inmates and staff if California goes ahead with a construction plan to add prison beds there and at other San Joaquin Valley lockups.

Construction stirs the soil and contributes to the spread of valley fever spores, and prisoners are thought to contract the disease at a higher rate than the population at large because they haven't built up specific immunity that lifelong valley residents have, generally have higher rates of compromised immune systems and spend a good deal of time outdoors in the yards at their facilities.

A recent report commissioned by the federal medical care receiver called on the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to hold off on building 12 dorms at five prisons in the "hyperendemic" disease area, including two slated for Pleasant Valley.

The report also said that if the state can't reduce valley fever exposure at the prison, where 300 inmates are being treated for the disease, prison officials should "consider relocating all inmates from this institution."

The recommendations conflict with California's recently enacted Assembly Bill 900, the $7.9 billion prison construction program designed to keep the federal courts from imposing a cap on the inmate population. More than a third of the 16,000 new "infill" beds contained in AB 900 are supposed to be built in the five San Joaquin Valley prisons, including 600 at Pleasant Valley.

In interviews with The Bee, the prison system's regional medical director for the Fresno area and the top doctor at the prison suggested it would be a bad idea for California to break more ground at a place where the disease clinically known as Coccidioidomycosis already is costing the state millions.

It's a good bet, they said, that dorm construction at Pleasant Valley will increase chances of prisoners and staff becoming ill.

"It's up to the Legislature to decide where they are going to build these beds," said Dr. Elena Tootell, the prison system's regional medical director who reports to Robert Sillen, the federal receiver. "But it will certainly make our job more difficult if we have to create beds here where people will be exposed to cocci (pronounced cox-see). ... We are putting more people who might be at a higher risk for dissemination and more morbidity associated with cocci into this area."

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger showed no concern over the problem at a Sacramento news conference last week. "We will go ahead and build," he said.

Lawmakers from both parties concur that the state should go ahead with the infill program in the valley fever zone.

"We're building the beds to keep bad people in prison," said Assembly Republican leader Mike Villines of Clovis. "We can deal with valley fever as a separate issue."

State Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, agreed.

"There are many health risks associated with prisons and we should mitigate those risks to the best of our ability, but we also have an obligation of keeping people behind bars," he said.


Last year, Fresno County health authorities documented 776 new cases of valley fever. Some two-thirds of those cases were reported at Pleasant Valley. Those Pleasant Valley victims, in turn, totaled about 10 percent of the prison's population. New infections at the prison have continued this year at a rate of 17 to 20 a month, according to Igbinosa.

"You never really kill it," Rutherford said of valley fever meningitis. "On a spectrum of bad to horrible, it's on the horrible end."

And the cost to treat valley fever is growing.

According to a report by Pappagianis, the UC Davis expert, it costs about $34,000 to hospitalize a typical valley fever prison patient and $788,000 for the more serious cases such as Walt Sanders and Javier Garcia.

Pleasant Valley officials did not have a price tag on the disease at their prison. The receiver's office has estimated the cost at no less than $11 million for the last fiscal year.

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5) The Articles linked below were Abstracted from the sources cited.

Folsom Prison staph illness up, union says

By Chelsea Phua and Andy Furillo - Bee Staff Writers
Published 12:00 am PDTWednesday, August 29, 2007

A union representing state prison guards said that unsafe conditions at Folsom Prison have caused the spread of staph infections since early this year among correctional peace officers and other staff members.

In a lawsuit filed in the spring in San Francisco Superior Court, the California Correctional Peace Officers' Association alleges that four correctional peace officers contracted a contagious strain of staph called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA.

The number has since increased to 20 to 25 cases, said Scott Lamphere, the union's Folsom chapter president. Those infected include a prison doctor, a dentist and other support staff, but the majority of the disease's victims are correctional officers, he said.

The union alleges that the guards most likely contracted the disease from inmates, with whom they regularly come into contact.

Lamphere said the prison's unwillingness to disclose and segregate inmates infected with staph infections places the guards and other staff members at risk. The suit said the prison failed to provide effective sanitation procedures and equipment for the guards, "failing to notify Plaintiffs of inmates infected with communicable diseases and failing to properly sanitize inmate linens and common areas."

Folsom Prison spokesman Tip Kindel declined to comment, referring questions to the federal receiver's office because they involved a medical issue.

The receiver, Robert Sillen, said only that he knew that the CCPOA "filed some papers alleging that several of their members have come down with MRSA, which is totally believable to me. When you look at the situation environmentally, medically, any other way in the prisons, I mean, I'm amazed there isn't more MRSA going around. But I don't know any specifics there."

He said his office is "not in particular" investigating the Folsom case. "We're a long way from making these prisons safe from a public health perspective and a contagion perspective."

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6)The Articles linked below were Abstracted from the sources cited.

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What's Really Going on Here??

Enough is Enough: Arnie Argues to Perpetuate California's Inhumane Prison Conditions.

Sufficient Time has Passed to Prove California Irresponsible

Posted January 20, 2008
The article below was published on May 17, 2007, in CU 57_1

What's going to happen with California's inhumane prison system? Nothing. Prisons are unimportant to the politicians except as a tool to prove themselve tough on crime/

The Assembly and Governor were just told the California K-12 School system needs 25 Billion a year to even have a chance to successfully educate the kids. Their response to this news?

Nunez: "This is a conversational opportunity...."

Arnie: "no amount of money will improve our schools without needed education reform..."

Let's look at what this means for prisons. There are three 'hot buttons" for California Politicians: Education, Crime, and Taxes. The Politicians always are "for" education, "tough" on crime, and "against" taxes.

California's political leadership just received and acknowledged the above study's conclusion that our schools are in a death spiral. Their response? The leaders of both parties openly stated they will do nothing about it.

They are openly refusing to spend the minimum amount of money required for basic educational needs. Education is arguably the leading hot button issue, something every politician is "for," and both sides have abandoned it.

Voters are not as sympathetic to prisons as they are to education. Politicians use prisons differently than schools. The politicians use prisons as places to put the criminals they are getting "tough" on, not as a place they put money.

Prisons are where politicians put their mouths, not our money. This is what really happened when they all tripped over each other to sing the praises of the euphemistically named "three-strikes" law, without paying the costs for their tough on crime crusades. Life in prison is a political football for irresponsible politicians.

Three Strikes, and a flood of other "get tough on crime" to get elected programs, have overwhelmed our prison system.

Now it's time to pay the piper for our harshness. Now it's time for the politicians to put our money where their mouths were. The tough on crime campaigns, and our rapidly expanding population, are demanding we cash the checks our political big mouths wrote.

But putting money into prisons violates the third political hot button: taxes. "No New Taxes" is axiomatic to successful politicians since the first Bush fried for his "no new taxes" lie. Since then, taxes have become a "third rail" for Republicans and Corporate Democrats,

Our harsh criminal laws, combined with deep poverty in California have coordinated to create a prison crisis the state is refusing to face, just as it is refusing to face the crisis in the schools. California's political leadership is irresponsible, and has failed its duty to maintain effective schools or humane prisons.

California's failure to fix it's cruel prisons is tantamount to publicly announcing that we intentionally inflict cruel and unusual punishment as part of doing time.

This unconstitutional condition forfeits California's right to run its own prisons. Thank god.

Arnie's total package of proposals, AB900 combined with his proposed early release and involuntary out of state transfer program is insufficient to immediately address inhumane prison conditions.

Arnie and the Assembly will not do a thing to immediately end, or significantly relieve, the current state of institutional inhumanity in California prisons. Or in California's schools.

The total package Arnie presented to the courts is insufficient to ease the situation in the prisons in the short or long term.

The legislature, the Governor, and the voters have fallen far short of acting responsibly, let alone humanely, with the power of crime and punishment. What will our political leadership do?

Nothing. Remember, we just received news that our children's schools have failed, and the politicians are doing nothing. Our leaders will do nothing about the prisons.

The court will seize the prisons, after Arnie bullshits them a lot, but the State won't take substantive action that actually changes prison conditions.

The court will eventually seize the prisons, bring them up to Constitutional Standards, and make California pay the bill.


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