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Brickbats And Bouquets For U.S Prison Healthcare In-Charge

The U.S federal receiver Robert Sillen, hired to improve healthcare for state prisoners has released an ambitious turnaround plan for his jurisdiction.

According to Sillen the 50-page plan "will eliminate the unconscionable human suffering" in prison and protect California communities from diseases carried by inmates cycling in and out.

Over time, Sillen says, taxpayers will get more for their dollar from a system that experts claim was so broken that it experienced an average of one inmate death per week, due to medical incompetence or neglect.

"Good care is less costly than bad care," quotes Sillen, who has predicted it will take as long as 20 years before the sprawling medical operation is fixed and handed back to the state.

U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson appointed Sillen, 64, after Henderson concluded the state was incapable of fixing prison medical care on its own. He has been on the job a year and earns an annual salary and compensation package totaling $650,000.

Lawyers for inmates initially hailed his appointment as a prescription for a $1-billion-plus medical care system that they said was understaffed, riddled with incompetent doctors and plagued by an absence of standards and a shortage of basic supplies, such as bandages and hand soap. Yet time has dampened their initial enthusiasm. They now say their hope is tempered by frustration that Sillen has not moved faster on problems directly affecting inmate care.

Attorney Steve Fama of the nonprofit Prison Law Office, whose civil rights suit led to Sillen's appointment, said that a year ago he gave the receiver a list of seven prisons with the most severe medical crises. One was San Quentin, where Sillen established a pilot program for improving care. Another was Avenal, near Coalinga in the San Joaquin Valley, where three inmates died in December.

In response to the deaths, Sillen sent a team of doctors and created more t
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