New Prison Health Czar Moves to Sacramento
(04/22/2008)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The newly appointed federal administrator for California’s prison health system closed the San Jose office where his predecessor, Robert Sillen, had headquartered the receivership since its 2006 inception.

J. Kelso Clark will administer the California Prison Health Care Receivership Corporation from Sacramento, the state capital and home to the state’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and several state agencies involved with the prison system.

“Close coordination with the CDCR and other state agencies is essential to developing a constitutionally acceptable prison healthcare system that can be transitioned back to the state’s control as cost-effectively as possible,” Kelso says.

In January, U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson appointed Kelso — a law professor and former chief information officer for the state — to head the receivership amid concerns about the pace and timetable of prison healthcare reform.

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The reform process had reached a “critical juncture” and “demands a substantially different set of administrative skills and style of collaborative leadership,” Henderson said in a statement announcing Kelso’s appointment.

During his tenure, Sillen drew criticism from state lawmakers, prison officials, inmate representatives and rights advocates for his brusque manner and non-collaborative leadership style.

Sillen, who prior to his appointment administered the Santa Clara Valley Health and Hospital System in San Jose, frequently clashed with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state legislators, whom he blamed for the crisis in prison healthcare.

Having created a system so dysfunctional that it violated the Constitution in allowing inmates to die unnecessarily due to medical neglect, the politics of prisons was preventing reform, according to Sillen.

Ten of the receivership’s 15 employees, including the chief financial officer and public information officer, were terminated as part of the restructuring. The move will save approximately $6 million per year, officials say.

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