California Prison Doctors Paid Second-Highest In The Nation
By DON THOMPSON 10/19/12 03:37 PM ET EDT
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A doctor at California Medical
Facility was paid more than $410,000 last year, while a registered nurse at High Desert State Prison made nearly $236,000 – more than twice the statewide average in both cases.
A pharmacist at Corcoran State Prison was paid more than $196,000, nearly double what is typical across the state.
Compensation for medical
providers has soared in the prison system since a federal judge seized control of inmate health care
in 2006 and appointed an overseer with the power to hire and set pay levels.
As the official begins to wind
down his oversight, the medical hiring and salary increases have helped lead to an improvement in inmate care, but it has increased the bill for taxpayers too.
It has also led to criticism that the official – called a receiver – provided a "Cadillac" level of care for convicted felons. A state review found that only Texas
pays its state prison doctors more that California.
"The problem that we had is that the receiver was not accountable to anybody," said former state Sen. George Runner, a Republican who has frequently criticized the program.
"So the receiver could just do or choose to spend whatever amount of money
he thought was necessary to solve his problem, and unfortunately now the state is stuck with that," he said.
The receiver for medical care, J. Clark Kelso, said the state has been free to collectively bargain health care
providers' salaries since a court order increasing their wages expired three years ago.