Calif. Prison Receiver Spending in Question

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A federal receiver appointed to improve inmate healthcare dramatically increased spending in California’s prisons but has so far failed to improve conditions for sick and injured convicts, a state Assembly committee has concluded.

More than $82 million was spent to plan construction projects that were largely abandoned, which was only a fraction of the amount charged to California taxpayers, according to the report by the Assembly Committee on Accountability and Administrative Review.

The findings, which are expected to be announced during a hearing today, show large salaries being paid to construction consultants on an abandoned project, who then charged taxpayers for housing, meals and dry cleaning.

One of the most disturbing discoveries, according to committee members, was the fact that three firms were paid a total of $27 million to do construction planning for medical facilities that were never built.

The bill also included housing for five consultants expensed to the state, including two rental apartments that cost more than $2,200 a month. One firm with five consultants who each earned up to $326 an hour charged the state $21,535 in expenses in a single month.

Prison healthcare spending has grown by more than 65 percent since 2006, when a three-judge panel appointed the receiver.

Nancy Kincaid, a spokesman for the current receiver, J. Clark Kelso, said Kelso was appointed in 2008 after the contracts were already in place. She said all of the expenses paid out by the previous receiver were within federal reimbursement guidelines.

Kincaid also noted that Kelso has cut spending since his appointment.

The overall death rate at prison health care centers has dropped by at least 10 percent since 2006, according to a presentation  by Kelso.