STOCKTON — Admissions have been halted at a new state prison medical facility in Stockton amid reports that it is facing staffing shortages, inadequate supplies and unsanitary conditions.
Court-appointed medical receiver Clark Kelso stopped the movement of any new prisoners to the 6-month-old California Health Care Facility. He also delayed the opening of an 1,133-bed wing for mentally ill inmates, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.
Kelso told federal officials that a recent outbreak of scabies at the facility likely stemmed from an inability to provide adequate hygiene supplies.
The Stockton medical prison, the first of its kind in California, opened in July. A full load of 1,722 prisoners was promised by the end of December in a bid to help meet federal orders to reduce prison crowding elsewhere and bring inmate medical care up to constitutional standards.
The Times said an inspection team sent in by lawyers for prisoners found that nurses failed to promptly answer call buttons in the outpatient unit.
A shortage of towels forced prisoners to dry off with dirty socks; a shortage of soap halted showers for some inmates, and incontinent men were put into diapers and received catheters that did not fit, causing them to soil their clothes and beds, according to the inspection report and a separate finding by Kelso.
The report also said there were so few guards that a single officer watched 48 cells at a time and could not step away to use the bathroom.
Kelso said the problems at the facility call into question California’s ability to take responsibility for prison health care statewide. He accused corrections officials of treating the mounting health care problems as a second-class priority, the newspaper said.
Deborah Hoffman, a spokeswoman for the state corrections department, attributed the decision to halt admissions to the complexities of opening a one-of-a-kind medical prison.
“It’s not uncommon for new facilities to have stops and starts during the activation process,” she told the Times. “This facility is unique in its design, size and mission and is something that no other prison system has ever operated.”
Hoffman said the corrections department is attempting to fix the problems.
“If these are normal hiccups, (the corrections department) has to vastly and immediately change what is ‘normal,’” said Rebekah Evenson of the Prison Law Office, which represents prisoners in class-action lawsuits. “These problems are of an extreme dimension.”