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San Joaquin County prison hospital nearly done, still hiring

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Posted: Thursday, June 13, 2013 12:00 am

The massive prison hospital in southern San Joaquin County is almost complete, its staff is being hired and the first of its inmates will arrive in early July.

The California Health Care Facility, Stockton, cost $900 million to build and is expected to eventually employ 2,400 people.

Up to 1,722 state prison inmates with chronic illnesses or mental health problems will be transferred there from California's other 33 prisons.

"It's in the final stages of construction," said California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation spokesman Bill Sessa. "The patients will be transferred there in stages ... and the number of employees will go up gradually as the inmate population increases."

About 1,000 workers in mostly medical positions will be on staff next month, and hiring continues.

"These are all civil service positions," Sessa explained, noting that applicants must pass qualification exams and get on eligibility lists before they can be considered for employment.

Many of the jobs are expected to be filled by those currently working at the state's other prisons or by former prison employees who had been laid off, Sessa said.

Dozens of job openings there, nevertheless, have been posted by three state agencies -- the Department of State Hospitals, California Prison Health Care and the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Prison project

Even more state jobs are on the way to southern San Joaquin County, where another state corrections facility -- called the DeWitt Nelson Conversion Project -- is being built.

The $113 million DeWitt prison is expected to open in early 2014 and will house up to 1,133 men with chronic mental health problems. It is expected to employ hundreds of medical and correctional staff members, including many psych techs.

The California Health Care Facility, Stockton, and the DeWitt project are being built just east of Highway 99 on unincorporated land on Arch Road between Manteca and Stockton.

They will provide health services -- particularly mental health care -- to California's convicted felons. The state has 132,760 prison inmates, but only those who need serious or chronic long-term health care will be transferred to San Joaquin County.

Besides getting medical treatments, those prisoners will be guarded around-the-clock and segregated from the public by a 13-foot-high lethal electrified fence.

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