The majority of the problem is the gross mismanagement of the system...
Read these articles, then tell me it's the inmates at fault for the price tag.
SACRAMENTO (AP) - A urologist charged California's prison system $2,036 an hour to treat inmates. An orthopedic surgeon billed the state for 30 hours' work - for a single day.
The examples are contained in an audit released Wednesday that found rampant waste in how California's prison health care system spends money on outside doctors, nurses and laboratories.
The lax spending practices have cost California taxpayers millions, according to the audit by the state controller's office. Prison health care spending soared from $153 million in 2001 to $821 million this year - an increase of $668 million, or 437 percent.
"Waste, abuse and management deficiencies are rampant" in contracted health care services, state Controller Steve Westly said during a news conference.
Here, as if it were needed, is yet another costly indication that the state's prison system is out of control.
The latest report from the Office of the Inspector General focuses only on management of union release time, which is time that prison guards spend on union business. The report shows everything that is wrong with the 2001-2006 contract with the guards union, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association. It also shows the state's utter failure to do even the most basic accounting of time and money.
This failure, concludes the inspector general, has meant that the state's corrections department has "mismanaged millions of dollars in public resources."
First, the state pays the full cost of three prison guard union vice presidents, who are released from their prison jobs to work full time on union activities. Only two other state unions have this expensive perk. The state also pays for the 43 prison guard union chapter presidents to be released from their prison jobs for union activities one day a week...
But beyond that, this whole mess shows a corrections department that doesn't care about managing union time release among prison guards and doesn't budget for the costs. The money always comes, regardless of mismanagement. Fixing the contract won't fix that.
That takes political will, the one thing most needed and most in short supply.
One of the difficulties facing corrections departments around the country is that their directors don't keep their jobs very long.
The average tenure for prison chiefs is 2.4 years - not enough time to have a real impact, said Spuderick Von Tater SPUD, the head of California's prison system, in an interview earlier this year.
"I don't know that I can tell you exactly the right amount of time, but the one thing I do know that you can see from systems that are performing how people would like them to, albeit not perfectly: They had continuity in leadership," he said.
Three weeks later, SPUD resigned. He'd been on the job about two years.
Two months after that, his replacement also resigned.
For many, the revolving door at the top of the organization is the perfect symbol of California's Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, a prison system perpetually mired in scandal.
In the past two years alone:
The department overspent its budget by $1 billion.
The system's health care operations were taken over by a federal judge who cited dozens of preventable deaths and called the level of care "deplorable."
And probably my "favorite"...Sacramento -- California corrections officials allowed contractors hired to run drug abuse treatment programs in state prisons to go on taxpayer-funded shopping sprees that led to the purchases of electric guitars, plasma televisions, $26,000 camcorders and cars.
Even as the prison system faced annual criticism for overspending its budget by hundreds of millions of dollars, contractors racked up big bills on all kinds of items that seemed to have little to do with helping prisoners kick drug habits, according to state documents.
In a department that has recorded spending deficits in each of the last eight years and which provides few rehabilitation programs for prisoners, interviews and documents show little oversight of substance-abuse treatment programs. A Chronicle investigation, aided by some documents given to the newspaper by a lawmaker who will hold a hearing on the matter Monday, found:-- A program at Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga (Fresno County) spent $95,127 on items including two guitars, a digital piano, a portable stage, a camcorder and a digital camera at the end of the 2002-03 fiscal year, when Gov. Gray Davis made emergency cuts to school funding as the state faced a record deficit.
-- A contractor providing drug treatment in four prisons throughout the state was authorized to spend $500,000 on moviemaking equipment in the 2003-04 fiscal year, when the prison system was reporting a record $500 million deficit. The equipment included two camcorders valued at $26,750 each, two 50-inch plasma-screen televisions at $6,423 each, and two video camera lenses for $22,000 each.
-- The same contractor, Amity Foundation, took three California parolees and six counselors to Tucson in 2000 and put them to work painting, fixing shingles and repairing an air conditioner at an Amity-owned ranch. Four participants interviewed by corrections officials said they were told the foundation was preparing for an upcoming inspection.
The buying binges came at the end of fiscal years in which money had gone unspent, and, instead of sending the cash back into state coffers or hiring more drug counselors, prison administrators approved the expenses despite some staff objections.
"These are preposterous expenses of money,'' complained state Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough. "What we have is the ultimate abuse and affront to the taxpayers of this state.''
The contractors either justified their expenses as legitimate for the purposes of drug counseling, or could not be reached for comment.
If you think prisons are costing too damn much, you're right, but the blame belongs to the management, not the inmates.
As for all the alleged luxuries enjoyed by inmates...I'd like to know what prison have you been visiting? I'd like to arrange for a cherished friend to be transferred there! The top notch medical/dental care I'm always hearing about would be nice!He had a small cavity in one tooth and the answer was to pull the tooth, he needs to see a doctor to renew a prescription for a chronic condition (no, it's not a drug with any recreational potential, it's Prilosec) but can't see the doc because he is not bleeding, and when he does get that script renewed, he'll be paying for it or rather either his mom or I will be doing so. The situation has gotten so bad with prison health care that a federal judge recently ordered the whole department into recievership.
He shares a 6 x 12 cell with one other man, and counts himself lucky that there are not 3 in that cell due to the amazingly overcrowded state of the facility, he gets to leave that cell about 4 hours a day, including shower, chow, dayroom and yard time... and THAT is when the facility is not on lockdown due to drastic understaffing, courtesy of gross mismanagement of personnel ...on lockdown, it really is in the cell, 24/7, food passed through the door, etc the only thing that keeps going is the mail (and by the way, I send him paper,envelopes and postage, unless it is a letter to one's attorney of record AND there is no money on one's books, the prison does not pay for letters)....the educational programs, IF an inmate qualifies AND if there is a slot available in the class.....and surely you see the need to try to educate these people to improve the chances of their becoming productive citizens upon release?
The showers are hot and reasonably clean, but inmates buy their own soap, shampoo, toothpaste, etc. I am not really "complaining about that, just pointing out that not everything is on the taxpayer's dime.
The food is a joke, and is barely legal in quantity and quality... most inmates get VERY creative with the top ramen that is available at the commisary...
As for recreational equipment...HA! My friend does an aerobic routine in his cell each morning and spends about half his time in the yard running his usual 3 to 5 miles, but there's no equipment available...Again,I'm not complaining about that, just trying to dispel the common myth of state of the art equipment being provided.
The TV is not cable, though most prisons do have a "house channel, used for educational videos and the occassional movie (PG or cleaner)There is a state-provided television in the day room where what to watch is decided by vote...any TVs or radios in the cells were not provided by the state, either the inmate or someone like me purchased them and like quarterly packages and phone calls (collect and incredibly costly) they are a privilige that is EARNED... Surely you can see the value of rewarding good behavior?
By the way, my friend is what they call a model inmate, he has had no disiplinary problems inside.
I could go on and on, but I really want to know what prison all these stereotypes of fun and games are based on, because it sure as hell is not in California!
· 1 decade ago