Judge asked to seize $8 billion from California treasury

SACRAMENTO (AP) -- A federal court official in California is asking a judge to seize 8 billion dollars from the state's treasury to improve health care at California overcrowded prisons.

Court-appointed receiver Clark Kelso says the money will be needed over the next five years to build medical units for 10,000 sick or mentally ill inmates.

He's also asking the judge to hold Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state controller in contempt of court if they don't allocate the money soon.

Federal courts have declared the health-care system in California state prisons so poor that it violates inmates' rights. Kelso was tasked with supervising the reform effort. The state controller says he can't act without a court order or legislative approval.

Meanwhile, the state assembly minority leader questions how the state can justify spending so much on inmate medical care "when hardworking taxpayers can't even get health care."

Kelso's request comes as lawmakers are trying to cope with California's current 15.2-billion-dollar deficit.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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