Health Care Kills in California Prisons


You wouldn’t expect health care in a state prison to be exactly top-notch, but surely we can all agree that a patient dying every week as a result of preventable errors is a bit much. Medical care in California’s bulging lockups is so appalling that last year a federal judge, acting in a case brought by the Prison Law Office, appointed a special receiver to oversee the $1.4 billion system. That receiver now reports that things are even worse than had been thought, detailing, as the Los Angeles Times sums up, “widespread evidence of malpractice and neglect — and proof that inmates suffered not just from incompetence but also from cruelty at the hands of some doctors.” The problems run from the tragic to the farcical – everything from preventable deaths to massive financial mismanagement to forehead-slappers like the officials at San Quentin who ordered expensive diagnostic imaging equipment four years ago that they still haven’t gotten around to unpacking.

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  • Vince Beiser, a former Mother Jones senior editor, has reported from more than 30 countries—on troop training in Iraq, natural disasters in Haiti, and prison conditions in California.