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Ventura County Taxpayers' Group Files Suit to Stop State-of-the-Art Hospitals for Incarcerated Felons

Challenges move to seize billions from state, construct prison health care centers throughout California.

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 27 /PRNewswire/ -- A first-of-its kind lawsuit was filed this week to prevent a federal judge and his appointed receiver from removing billions of dollars from California's treasury for the sole purpose of reconstructing the state's prison health care system.

Taxpayers for a Safe Ventura County opposes the proposal to construct seven new prison facilities, each the size of 10 Wal-Mart stores, in seven California communities that could house the state's most dangerous prisoners - including death row inmates. The third proposed facility would be constructed in Camarillo, located in Ventura County.

"We're taking this action because the appointed receiver has simply gone too far," said Steven Baric, a partner with the Horizon Law Group and lead attorney on behalf of the taxpayers' group. "When a policy difference threatens to undermine public safety and bankrupt California, the people have to say enough is enough."

The dispute arises from a three-judge federal panel's 2005 finding that California's prison health care system is unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson placed the system in receivership and appointed Clark Kelso as "receiver" to administer prison health care. Kelso is demanding at least $8 billion to construct new facilities.

The taxpayers' suit states that no law permits a judge or court-appointed receiver to demand money from the state or to construct new prison facilities. The filing also says Kelso's plan doesn't comply with federal guidelines requiring it be "narrowly drawn" and "the least intrusive means necessary to correct the violation."

"The proposed remedy is truly shocking," said Baric. "The idea of remaking California's health care system, building state-of-the-art facilities and letting only incarcerated felons use them not only contradicts the law, but fundamental common sense as well."

In the proposed Camarillo facility, at least 1,500 prisoners would be treated there, making it the biggest hospital in Ventura County. Local residents have expressed concern this would siphon away critical care from patients not currently housed in a California prison.

While the suit only addresses the proposed Camarillo facility, plaintiffs are confident that if they prevail, it will stop the other proposed prison hospital facilities.

"Taxpayers are standing up for their rights in Ventura County," said Baric. "And when we are successful here, it will resonate all across California."

SOURCE Steven Baric
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