Chief psy­chi­a­trist says Cal­i­for­nia in­ac­cu­rate on prison data

Porterville Recorder - - STATE - By DON THOMP­SON

SACRA­MENTO, Calif. — The chief psy­chi­a­trist for Cal­i­for­nia's prison sys­tem is al­leg­ing that state of­fi­cials pro­vided in­ac­cu­rate or mis­lead­ing in­for­ma­tion to a fed­eral judge and in­mates' at­tor­neys, giv­ing the false im­pres­sion that the sys­tem is prop­erly car­ing for men­tally ill in­mates.

U.S. District Judge Kim­berly Mueller on Wed­nes­day said she plans to hear pub­lic tes­ti­mony from the whistle­blower, Dr. Michael Gold­ing. She or­dered corrections of­fi­cials to halt their own in­ter­nal re­view and avoid re­tal­i­a­tion while she con­sid­ers or­der­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by her court-ap­pointed spe­cial mas­ter.

Corrections of­fi­cials de­clined com­ment on the lit­i­ga­tion. But Gov. Jerry Brown's deputy le­gal af­fairs sec­re­tary, Gabriel Sanchez, told Mueller that other corrections em­ploy­ees may have a dif­fer­ent point of view than Gold­ing.

"A lot of the al­le­ga­tions go to the en­tire sys­tem" of pro­vid­ing men­tal health care to more than 30,000 in­mates, Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral An­drew Gib­son told the judge. Gib­son added that of­fi­cials take the al­le­ga­tions se­ri­ously and wanted to launch their own in­ter­nal per­son­nel in­ves­ti­ga­tion "to get to the bot­tom" and "fully un­der­stand what Dr. Gold­ing is al­leg­ing."

Gold­ing's ac­cu­sa­tions are in­cluded in a 160page re­port with 60 ex­hibits. Mueller sealed it from pub­lic view to pro­tect in­mates' pri­vacy.

Michael Bien, an at­tor­ney rep­re­sent­ing in­mates, said in an in­ter­view that the al­le­ga­tions un­der­mine the state's ef­forts to end years of fed­eral over­sight.

"There's a fun­da­men­tal trust is­sue here," Bien said. "If we can't trust that kind of ba­sic data, then that's a tremen­dous set­back."

The al­le­ga­tions al­ready prompted in­mates' at­tor­neys to walk away from a nearly com­pleted agree­ment that would have al­lowed the state to re­duce the num­ber of prison psy­chi­a­trists from 405 to 326, a 20 per­cent re­duc­tion..

The now stalled agree­ment was based on prison of­fi­cials' rep­re­sen­ta­tions to Mueller, her spe­cial mas­ter and in­mates' at­tor­neys that they could pro­vide proper men­tal health care with fewer em­ploy­ees, in part by in­creas­ing their use of telepsy­chi­a­try, in which psy­chi­a­trists talk to in­mates through two-way video hookups.

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