U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson made it clear Monday he expects California to pay $8 billion for seven new inmate medical facilities. But he stopped short of immediately holding Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state Controller John Chiang in contempt for failing to turn over the money.California requests $7 billion in federal bailout aid at the same moment they're about to be held in contempt for not ponying up for an $8 billion prisoner health care tab. Unbelievable.
Their Legislature failed to provide a solution, so that clears the way for federal courts to simply order them into compliance. I don't know much about California state politics but I have to wonder, without an overstuffed prison system would they even have a budget crisis?
If my crystal ball is working properly, we could be watching something happen on the West Coast that presages Texas' future. UTMB officials have told the Legislature in public hearings they're "close" to not providing a constitutional level of health care for inmates, citing Texas' low per-inmate spending rates in UTMB's contract - less than half the per-inmate cost in California. More inmates die in Texas prisons even though California houses more people. They're not doing much better at TYC. I've speculated that once we no longer had a Texan appointing Attorneys General, Texas might see similar litigation succeed over prison healthcare no matter who becomes president.
Texas has at least temporarily avoided a California-style prison overcrowding crisis - though TDCJ units are essentially at max capacity - but I've seen no evidence Texas' prisoner health services are any better than California's and with UTMB-Galveston (which runs 80% of the prison health care system) devastated by Hurricane Ike, for the time being their focus won't be on launching any major improvements.