State Prison Doctors 'Working In A Third World Environment;' Preventable Deaths Rise 50 Percent

Treating inmates at San Quentin State Prison.
Treating inmates at San Quentin State Prison.
Ray Chavez for the CDC.

Looking into a federal receiver's numbers on California's prison health-care system, KPCC (89.3 FM) found that while inmate deaths have declined for the second year in a row, the number of preventable deaths was up 50 percent.

It's against this backdrop of overcrowding and poor conditions that prisons have been ordered by a federal judge to release 43,000 inmates -- cutting the population by more than 30 percent -- which could happen next year if a court challenge by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is unsuccessful.

Between 2006 and 2008 the prison system's death rate decreased 13 percent, but the number of preventable deaths rose a whopping 50 percent, from 44 during the previous two years to 66, according to KPCC

Clark Kelso, the federal receiver in charge of reforming the system's health care, told the radio station, "It's not that we've got bad clinicians. It's that they're working in a Third World environment."

He says the system's health records are backlogged and that facilities are overcrowded. "I have overcrowding everywhere," Kelso said.

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