SACRAMENTO, Calif. -

California's corrections secretary says the state will have no choice but to move about 4,000 inmates to private prisons in other states if federal judges refuse to postpone a court-ordered population cap.

The state faces an April 18 deadline to reduce crowding in its 33 adult prisons to improve the care of sick and mentally ill inmates, but Gov. Jerry Brown is seeking a three-year delay.

Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard said Wednesday that a delay would give the state time to build cells for nearly 3,500 additional inmates. That would bring the state close to meeting the federal court's requirement while avoiding the need to send more inmates out of state.

The court has set a Friday deadline for an end to negotiations between Brown's administration and attorneys representing inmates.