Coalition for Accountable Health Care Meets with Sillen

On October 30, 2006, the Coalition for Accountable Health Care met with Federal Receiver Robert Sillen. The coalition includes CCWP, Justice Now, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, The Transgender, Gender Variant & Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP), Women?s AfterCare Program & Services (WAYPASS), the Transgender in Prison Committee (TIP), All of Us or None and the Family Advocacy Network.
The Coalition presented the Receiver with its perspective that the best way to deal with the horrendous medical conditions in California prisons is to reduce the extreme overcrowding of the prison system. As long as 174,000 people are being squeezed into facilities meant for half that many, it is impossible to fundamentally improve medical care. The solution is not to build more prison beds even if they are hospital beds because this is just another form of prison expansion (not to mention the horrifying examples of prison hospitals that already exist). History shows that any time prisons are expanded California finds more prisoners to fill the additional space. The state of crisis in California?s prisons is made worse by this overcrowding and it is impossible to provide real health care in this prison system. Sillen?s plans focus on recruiting new medical personnel, replacing the MTA position with licensed vocational nurses and expanding prison health care facilities by building up to seven new prison hospitals. Although agreement was not reached on whether overcrowding was the fundamental issue, the discussion opened up many important areas of debate.
The Coalition presented many specific examples of the health care crisis in California?s women?s prisons, of most of which Sillen was not aware. When the coalition presented the lack of medical translation services and its impact on the health care of Latina and other immigrant women, Sillen agreed that this was a critical area which had received little attention up until now. He recognized that he needed more regular information about the conditions in women?s prisons, and the Coalition will be developing a means of getting this to him on an ongoing basis.
The meeting was an important step in developing an ongoing relationship with the Receiver. It also fosters a growing positive collaboration among groups who are organizing around health care for women and transgender and gender variant people in prison.