High pay a costly legacy of Calif. prison receiver

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Compensation for medical providers in California's prison system has soared since a federal judge seized control of inmate health care in 2006 and established a receivership with the power to hire and set pay levels.

As the federal receivership begins to wind down, the medical hiring and salary increases have led to a quantifiable improvement in inmate medical care, and greater cost to state taxpayers.

The receiver's goal was to correct a prison medical system that was ruled unconstitutional for its substandard care. To do that, the receivership increased salaries, created new higher-paying positions and hired hundreds of employees to fill longtime vacancies.

Total spending on inmates' medical, dental and mental health care has more than doubled over the last decade to a projected $2.3 billion this year.