The court-appointed overseer of California’s prison health care system asked a federal judge yesterday to seize $8 billion from the state’s treasury over the next five years to build seven medical facilities for inmates throughout the state, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Receiver Clark Kelso asked for an initial payment of $3.1 billion in the current fiscal year, further complicating California’s 45-day-old budget impasse. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Democratic-controlled Legislature have been unable to reach a compromise in closing a $17.2 billion budget gap for the fiscal year that began July 1.
Kelso said the state’s budget troubles shouldn’t get in the way of improving health care in California’s 33 prisons after a federal judge declared the system so inadequate that it violated prisoners’ constitutional rights. Kelso asked the judge to find Schwarzenegger and state Controller John Chiang in contempt and order a fine against the state of at least $2 million a day until funds are made available for the proposed prison health facilities. “I think it’s a sad day for California taxpayers when we’re talking about health care improvements for convicted prisoners when hard-working, law-abiding folks are having trouble finding affordable health care for themselves and their families,” said state assembly Republican leader Mike Villines.