- Associated Press - Monday, June 1, 2015

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Contract prisons in California provide such poor health care that a federal official on Monday questioned Gov. Jerry Brown’s plans to bring additional inmates back from private prisons in other states.

While care in the 34 state-operated prisons has generally been improving, there has been little progress for the more than 4,000 patients housed at seven publicly and privately operated prisons, J. Clark Kelso, the federal receiver who controls the state’s prison health care system, said in a report.

A big problem is the facilities’ failure to hire enough doctors to provide care five days a week, as required by their state contract.

About 230 inmates at one contract prison - the Female Community Reentry Facility in McFarland - did not have a doctor for more than a month. If the inmates can’t be treated adequately at the contract facilities, they must be transferred to state-operated prisons.

Inspections “have consistently and repeatedly highlighted poor clinical performance … and a lack of accountability,” the report said of the seven prisons.

The poor report comes as Brown plans to bring back about half the nearly 8,000 inmates housed out-of-state. Kelso said that will likely increase use of the in-state contract beds “at a time when the quality and access to care at these facilities continues to decline.”

Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokeswoman Deborah Hoffman said in an email that the officials will keep working with the receiver’s office to provide quality health care in all state and contract prisons.

For instance, a spokeswoman for Kelso, Joyce Hayhoe, said the state’s contract called for the facilities to provide part-time nursing care, but the Legislature provided enough money to add 24-hour nursing coverage starting next month.

The receiver’s office recommended other contract and staffing changes last month, though Hayhoe said some of the seven contract prisons are doing better than others.

Don Specter, director of the nonprofit Prison Law Office that sued to force improvements in care at state-operated prisons, said he is concerned about poor care at the contract institutions as well.

“I think the receiver is correct to be concerned about the return of prisoners from out of state, given these problems,” he said.

Aside from the facility for female inmates, the other six are Central Valley Modified Community Correctional Facility and Golden State Modified Community Correctional Facility, both also in McFarland; Delano Modified Community Correctional Facility in Delano; Desert View Modified Community Correctional Facility in Adelanto; Shafter Modified Community Correctional Facility in Shafter; and Taft Modified Community Correctional Facility in Taft.

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