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Prison Medical Workers at the Heart of Recent California Overtime Controversy

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Sacramento, CAA recent report found that the number of inmates who died in California state prisons has dropped over the past 4 years, which may not be surprising considering the $2.1 billion the state spends on prison medical care. Yet the recent budget crisis has cast a critical eye toward the roughly $60 million in California overtime paid to prison medical workers.

Recent reports claim that health care employees working within California's penal system average 12-hour shifts, with many working 16- or even 18-hour shifts at a time. According to California Healthline, nearly 20 percent of all wages for prison nursing care comes from overtime pay alone.

The move has provoked much financial concern, but has also raised questions about the quality of care from overworked nursing staff.

"People who are pushing it to that level, working a ridiculous number of hours, usually crash," said Yolanda Esparza, a certified nursing assistant with the California Institution for Women in Corona, in a statement to Behavioural Health Central. "I myself have witnessed people sleeping at their posts - heavily, snoring, full sleep. They don't even notice people walking by. It's pretty common."

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