A federal judge on Thursday said he will appoint an independent authority to oversee the health care system in California's prisons, so plagued with problems that inmates die of neglect or maltreatment at the rate of one a week.
"The judge has clearly recognized the ongoing risk of death and harm to patients is unconstitutional and basically horrifying," said Alison Hardy, an attorney with the nonprofit Prison Law Office, which represents the plaintiffs.
The lawsuit initially involved 10 inmates - including a pair at Vacaville's two prisons. It alleged that prison officials across the state routinely violated inmate rights to adequate medical care. Specifically, the suit listed a paraplegic whose catheter went unchanged for months, a prisoner with AIDS whose pain medications were cut off eight times, and a former inmate at California State Prison, Solano, who had a degenerative disc disease and was denied required orthopedic surgery.
It alleged that prison officials relied on inadequately trained and poorly supervised medical assistants, failed to provide adequate nursing coverage on evenings and weekends, and failed to treat inmates with chronic disorders.
To date, not one prisoner has died at Gitmo.