A federal judge has ordered California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to explain to the court whether and when he can produce $250 million to start the first phase of an $8 billion prison healthcare system construction project.
U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson set an Oct. 27 hearing date for the governors response.
The court-appointed receiver of the states prison healthcare system, Clark Kelso, says he needs the funding to bring Californias prison healthcare system up to constitutional standards. The plan is to build seven new prison hospitals across the state to treat up to 10,000 inmates. The plan includes $6 billion for new construction and $2 billion to improve existing facilities.
The court order comes as California faces a grim financial forecast. Although the state just passed a budget, it is already an estimated $4.6 billion in the red due to a sharp drop in revenue and the prison healthcare project, and the state plans to borrow $4 billion in short-term notes, according to the state treasurers office.
Kelso has argued that the $250 million is available under a prison building plan approved by the Legislature last year aimed at reducing overcrowding. He has estimated the total building project will add about $3.1 billion to the states deficit. -- by Rebecca Vesely
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