Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Medical care in state prisons is improving

On May 7, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) asked a federal judge to return medical care to state control. For more than six years, CDCR has worked with a federal Receiver to rebuild the state’s prison health-care system and bring it into compliance with constitutional requirements.
In a court filing, CDCR said the state prison system has the “will, capacity, and leadership to maintain a sustainable system of providing constitutionally adequate medical health care” and cited numerous examples of improvements to California’s prison health-care system. Of particular note was the favorable assessment of the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), which inspects and evaluates the quality of medical care in each state prison.
The OIG has completed its second round of comprehensive inspections at all state prisons to monitor compliance with CDCR’s medical policies and procedures and medical community standards. Preliminary results show that the average compliance at 28 prisons is 80.2 percent, up from 72 percent for the first round of inspections completed in June 2010.
A federal court and the receiver requested the OIG, an independent agency, to develop and conduct comprehensive inspections evaluating the quality of medical care in each prison. Noting that the federal court had yet to define what level of compliance meets constitutional standards, the OIG did not conclude whether a prison passed or failed an inspection, but quantified the percentage of compliance with CDCR medical policies and procedures. A 75 percent score is the minimum score for moderate adherence. Scores below 75 percent denote low adherence. Scores of 85 percent and higher show high adherence.
Between September 2008 and June 2010, the OIG completed its first round of medical inspections at the state’s 33 prisons. They found that 24 prisons had a score of less than 75 percent; nine prisons scored between 75 and 85 percent and no prison scored higher than 85 percent. CDCR’s overall score was 72 percent.
Last December, the OIG completed its second round of medical inspections at all 33 prisons and has reported its findings for 28 prisons.
From June 2010 through April 2012, only four prisons had a score of less than 75 percent; 25 prisons scored between 75 and 85 percent and four prisons scored above 85 percent. The lowest score – 73 percent – is higher than the department’s overall score from two years ago, which is now 80.2 percent.
The OIG expects to publish its evaluations of the remaining prisons soon and will issue its report comparing the results of the first round of medical inspections with the second round later this year.