The California Prison Health Care Receivership Corp. is a non-profit organization created to house the activities of the federal Receiver. The Receivership was established by U.S. District Court Judge Thelton E. Henderson as the result of a 2001 class action law suit (Plata v. Schwarzenegger) brought against the State of California over the quality of medical care in the state's 33-prison system. The court found that the care was a violation of the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which forbids cruel and unusual punishment of the incarcerated. Judge Henderson wrote:
"By all accounts, the California prison medical care system is broken beyond repair. The harm already done in this case to California's prison inmate population could not be more grave, and the threat of future injury and death is virtually guaranteed in the absence of drastic action."
The state settled the suit in 2002, agreeing to a range of remedies that would bring prison medical care in line with constitutional standards. However, the state failed to comply with the court's direction, and Judge Henderson decided in June 2005 to establish a Receivership. That ground breaking arrangement strips the state - including the Governor, Legislature and Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation - of its authority to manage medical care operations in the prison system, and hands that responsibility over to the court-appointed Receiver. This Receivership is unprecedented in size and scope nationwide. Judge Henderson wrote:
"The Court has given defendants (the State) every reasonable opportunity to bring its prison medical system up to constitutional standards, and it is beyond reasonable dispute that the State has failed. Indeed, it is an uncontested fact that, on average, an inmate in one of California's prisons needlessly dies every six to seven days due to constitutional deficiencies in the CDCR's medical delivery system. It is clear to the Court that this unconscionable degree of suffering and death is sure to continue if the system is not dramatically overhauled."
All the activities of the Receivership have one bottom line in mind: To create a system where custody and health care staff together guarantee that access to care and quality of medical services in California prisons meet constitutional standards.