A federal court overseer asked a judge Wednesday to seize $8 billion from California's cash-strapped treasury to improve medical care at the state's 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 to hold Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state's controller in contempt of court if they don't allocate the money soon.
Federal courts have declared the health care 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 to U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson in San Francisco comes as lawmakers remain at odds over how to cope with California's $15.2 billion deficit seven weeks after the start of the fiscal year.