Prison Health Care


Prisons Are Main Source of California’s Psychiatric Housing

(Photo/Gregory D. Cook)

(Photo/Gregory D. Cook)

By Hannah Guzik, HealthyCal

California’s jails and prisons hold far more people with severe psychiatric illnesses than state hospitals, according to a recent report from the Treatment Advocacy Center and the National Sheriffs’ Association.

“For a state with 38 million people — 1 in every 8 Americans lives in California — there are almost no public psychiatric beds available for individuals with serious mental illness,” the report says.

Four state hospitals — Metropolitan, Patton, Napa, and Atascadero — have just over 4,500 beds, but 88 percent of them are reserved for mentally ill individuals who have been charged with crimes, according to the report. Another state hospital at Coalinga is used almost exclusively for sexually violent predators. Continue reading

Prison Officials Hope to Resume Admissions at Stockton Health Care Facility

The single-story housing units at the California Health Care Facility in Stockton provide wheelchair access, around-the-clock care for inmates. (Julie Small/KQED)

The single-story housing units at the California Health Care Facility in Stockton provide wheelchair access, around-the-clock care for inmates. (Julie Small/KQED)

By Julie Small

California prison officials are hoping to resume transfers of sick inmates to a new, state-of-the-art medical facility in Stockton later this month. While not licensed as a hospital, the prison medical facility provides high-level, round-the-clock care to inmates with the most complex medical conditions.

The federal overseer of inmate health care halted admissions at the prison in late January, citing unsanitary conditions and shortages of staff and supplies that have persisted for months.

The state spent $839 million to build the California Health Care Facility located at the southern edge of Stockton. The single-story housing was designed with rooms and doorways large enough to fit gurneys, wheelchairs, and medical equipment to care for 1,700 inmates with complex medical conditions.  But shortly after the facility opened in July 2013, staff and inmates reported problems getting essential medical and personal hygiene supplies. Continue reading

Sick and Aging Prison Inmates; Current Care, Possible Changes

Inmate Sean Reese, a Vacaville prison hospice volunteer, helps a patient in the documentary "Life in Prison" by Lonny Shavelson.

The state Assembly is expected to vote by this Friday on a bill that would permit medical probation for county jail inmates. Under medical probation, inmates who are terminally ill or so physically incapacitated that they require 24-hour care would be released from jail.

A 2010 law already permits medical probation for prison inmates. If passed, this new law would extend medical probation to inmates at county jails. As the Bay Citizen reports:

The bill comes as the state’s new policy known as realignment brings tens of thousands of low-level felons who would have served time in state prison to county jails, burdening the county with costs of caring for very sick inmates.

Many of the prisoners who receive medical parole are bedridden, and officials say they pose no threat to others.

Since the (2010) law went into effect, according to Joyce Hayhoe, legislative director for California Correctional Health Care Services, 42 inmates have been approved for medical parole and seven have been denied of a total of 49 who have had hearings.

Journalist Lonny Shavelson gained rare access to the Vacaville prison hospice — the first prison hospice in the country — and produced this short, powerful documentary for the Center for Investigative Reporting.