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California Prison Still Subpar, Grand Jury Finds

The Pleasant Valley State Prison (PVSP) in Coalinga, California continues to suffer from overcrowding and inadequate medical care, according to a March 25, 2009, report by the Fresno County Grand Jury.

As part of section 919(b) of the California Penal Code, grand juries are charged with inspecting the condition and management of California prisons annually.

The Fresno County Grand Jury visited PVSP in September 2008. Opened in 1994, PVSP houses minimum, medium, and maximum security prisoners. Designed for 2,200, PVSP currently has 5,191 prisoners, some of which are housed in a gymnasium.

According to the grand jury report, the Coalinga Regional Medical Center, the closest hospital to PVSP, does not have a secure medical wing. As a result, prisoners requiring hospitalization have to be taken to the Bakersfield Community Medical Center, almost an hour away. Construction of a secure medical wing at Coalinga is unlikely due to “budgetary constraints,” the grand jury explained.

The spread of Valley Fever is also a problem at PVSP. Caused by a fungus that lives in certain arid type soils, Valley Fever is spread through spores that are released into the air when soil is disturbed by wind, farming, construction, and other activities. Individuals with asthma, emphysema, and other compromised medical conditions are particularly susceptible to the fever. While at risk prisoners are transferred to other prisons, “the location of the prison . . . along with serious budget constraints, make [Valley Fever] an ongoing problem,” according to the grand jury report.

Other medical related problems at PVSP include the lack of adequate office space for doctors, and the lack of funds to implement a court ordered receiver’s turnaround plan for medical care within all California prisons. The entire health care system in the California prison system has been under the control of a Federal Receiver for years now after multiple class action lawsuits were filed by prisoners alleging inadequate medical care, mental health care, and dental care, and noncompliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The grand jury report is available on PLN’s website.

Sources: 2008-2009 Fresno County Grand Jury Report # 4; The Fresno Bee

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