Transcript: Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi’s Q&A with Attorney Donald Specter on the role of federal courts in California’s prison reform before the Assembly Select Committee on Justice Reinvestment on Oct. 21, 2013

Partial transcript of Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi’s (D-Torrance) Q&A with Donald Specter, Attorney and Director of the Prison Law Office, on the role of federal courts in California prison reform. The hearing before the Assembly Select Committee on Justice Reinvestment was held on Oct. 21, 2013:

Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance):
Mr. Specter. It’s a pleasure meeting you. I’ve seen your name on so many pleadings when I was working at the State Attorney General’s office. I know you’re an extremely effective advocate for your cause, and I always respect a good lawyer.

But I have to say that – I mean, I didn’t work too much on CDCR cases but I did handle a couple of cases involving prison medical care and what I saw were not some of these serious mental health cases or many of these other conditions that your photographs show. But it painted a picture for me of a system where prisoners can, you know, apply for docketing for appointments and they would be seen by clinicians, and if they didn’t get the necessary care, they would have levels of appeal in order to appeal for higher levels of medical treatment. And in some cases where the determination was made that the prison medical staff was not able to provide the necessary treatment that they would actually send the prisoner out to outside medical providers. So the overall impression that I got is yes, you’ve obviously convinced the United States Supreme Court that the CDCR is failing its constitutional obligations. When we brought these human beings into state custody, wouldn’t you have to admit that they are still getting more medical attention than what they would be receiving had they not been receiving health care insurance out in the public?

Donald Specter, Attorney and Director of the Prison Law Office:
Well, if I understand your question correctly, it seems like two parts. One, some prisoners were able to see a doctor in prison, which is true…But not all of the prisoners are able to see the clinicians when they need to and that’s why you have so many preventable deaths.

The second part is if you’re outside on the street and you have a job – and many prisoners have had a job – they can either pay for health care or walk into the emergency room to get that care. Prisoners don’t have that option. They’re completely at the mercy of the prison officials, and if they don’t provide that care, then the prisoners suffer the consequences.

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