California Prison Psychiatrist Paid $838,706, Data Shows

Tuesday, 05 Jul 2011 04:49 PM


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A chief psychiatrist for California’s overcrowded prison system was paid $838,706 in 2010, more than any other state employee that year, according to payroll figures released today.

The doctor, whose name wasn’t released, had a salary range of $261,408 to $308,640, according to data released by Controller John Chiang. The total compensation was raised either by bonuses or payout of unused vacation time or sick days, according to the controller’s office.

The 10 highest-paid state employees each earned more than $500,000 in the 2010 calendar year, for a total of $6.2 million, the figures show. All except three were a prison doctor or dentist. The most-populous U.S. state runs the nation’s largest correctional system, with about 163,000 inmates, and is at 175 percent of capacity, according to the Corrections and Rehabilitation Department.

The U.S. Supreme Court in May upheld an order to ease prison overcrowding in California by removing 37,000 inmates. The state is developing a plan to reduce the population without having to release dangerous felons. A federal judge in 2005 took over California’s prison health-care system following lawsuits that said 34 convicts died because of inadequate care.

The corrections system has openings for chief psychiatrists at several institutions, according to a July 1 job posting by the State Personnel Board. Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman for the prison system, didn’t immediately respond to a telephone request for comment.

Clark Kelso, the federal receiver who oversees the prison medical system, earned a total of $508,140 from the state, the payroll data shows. Joe Dear, the chief investment officer at the California Public Employees Retirement System, ranked seventh with a gross pay of $548,142, the data show.

Nancy Kincaid, spokeswoman for the medical receiver’s office, said retiring physicians are often able to cash out unused leave and time off for having to work overtime because of staff shortages and forced furloughs.

“We’ve seen a wave of retirees,” she said in a telephone interview. Her office doesn’t manage the salaries of psychiatrists and dentists; those go through the Corrections Department, she said.

The 11th-high-paid was Alan Trounson, the president of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, a $3 billion bond-financed stem-cell research organization, who earned $482,234.

California faced a $19 billion budget deficit in the fiscal year that ended June 30 and another $9 billion shortfall in this fiscal year. Governor Jerry Brown signed a budget June 30 that erased the current gap with spending cuts and forecasting more revenue than originally projected because of economic growth.

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