Arnold Schwarzenegger

Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger

In March 22 prisoners held at Pleasant Valley Prison in California sued ex-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for keeping them in a prison where Valley Fever was running rampant.  Schwarzenegger just filed documents saying, in essence, “not my problem.”

The suit by the prisoners claims that 30 people have died in Pleasant Valley from Valley Fever, and that hundreds more have been sick.  A recent study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health concluded that three prisoner workers in the region have died from Valley Fever.

According to TMZ who broke the news, Schwarzenegger’s response says that he was not responsible for for exposing prison inmates to a leprosy-like disease while in office.  Nor was he indifferent to the problem, citing a press conference he held about the issue.  “But he says he was busy running the state and others were responsible for solving prison problems,” per TMZ.

Taking a page from Donald Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice, Schwarzenegger  throws the people who worked for him under the bus.  “In essence … Arnold is saying he’s not personally responsible but if his underlings screwed up then the State might be on the hook,” they conclude.

According to the Fresno Bee, it just wasn’t worth the money to protect prisoners from a disease the state was well aware of:

The state thwarted a previous study by the Centers for Disease Control in 2008 and decided against spending $750,000 for improvements at one of the prisons in 2007 because of the high cost. Yet three experts appointed by the federal judge found last year that the state spends more than $23 million annually to treat inmates hospitalized with Valley fever.

Schwarzenegger was governor of California from 2003 to 2011.

In June of 2013 a federal judge ordered that 2000 inmates who were considered susceptible to Valley Fever be transferred to other facilities within 90 days.  Prison officials claim they have complied with the judge’s order.

One final note — why is TMZ breaking this story?  Not a knock against TMZ, they have actually broken important stories in the past.  But you’d think this would be on the radar of people covering the California prison beat — if there are any.

Photo by Gage Skidmore under Creative Commons license