Court Receiver Advocates to Transfer California's Sick Inmates

California should be ordered to transfer up to 7,000 ailing prison inmates to facilities with access to better medical care, a court-appointed receiver said Tuesday in a court filing.

Receiver Clark Kelso is in charge of improving inmate medical care but has become frustrated as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and lawmakers have so far balked at providing the $8 billion Kelso seeks to build new medical facilities.

A federal court ruled that the quality of health care in California's 33 adult prisons is unconstitutional and placed Kelso in charge of finding solutions.

In documents seeking court approval for his transfer proposal, Kelso said physically and mentally ill inmates cannot get proper care at four isolated prisons in the state's Central Valley.

The receiver's office recommended the inmates be shifted to prisons closer to urban areas, with healthy inmates moved to make room for them.

"There seems to be a feeling by the governor and attorney general that there are no consequences to not building (medical) facilities," John Hagar, the receiver's chief of staff, said in an interview. "We're going to begin moving the receivership in a somewhat different direction, given the impasse."

Scott Kernan, undersecretary for the corrections department, said the receiver's latest proposal makes no sense.

For example, Kelso is spending $40 million to improve medical facilities at one of the prisons from which he suggests sick inmates should be removed, Kernan said.

"This plan is unnecessary and only serves to further waste taxpayer dollars," he said.

Attorney General Jerry Brown also criticized Kelso's latest proposal.

"The receiver has made a lot of progress. But it seems the more he makes, the less happy he is," Brown said in a telephone interview. "No matter what the state does, it's never enough."

While waiting for a court decision on its transfer proposal, the receiver's office is adopting an emergency plan to deal with a backlog of inmates seeking care at the four prisons. That includes adding medical staff and setting up military-style hospital tents.