A federal court overseer asked a judge to seize $8 billion from Californias cash-strapped treasury to improve medical care at the states overcrowded prisons. Court-appointed receiver Clark Kelso said he needs the money over the next five years to build new medical units for 10,000 sick or mentally ill inmates.
Kelso also asked U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson in San Francisco to hold Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the states controller in contempt of court if they don't allocate the money soon. Federal courts have declared the healthcare system in California's 33 state prisons so poor that it violates inmates constitutional rights. Kelso was named by the court to oversee the reform effort.
The request comes as lawmakers remain at odds over how to cope with Californias $15.2 billion deficit seven weeks after the start of the fiscal year. Kelso asked the judge to seize the money only after the state Senate failed twice to pass a borrowing plan that would spread out the cost of building the medical units. He wants $6 billion for new prison health care facilities and $2 billion for improving existing ones.
The system is packed with about 159,000 inmates, well above the prisons designed capacity of about 100,000, in large part because of tough state sentencing laws. -- by the Associated Press
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