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More whistleblowers emerge in fight over secret report on prison psychiatric care

Prison psychologist alleges California corrections officials hid details of inmate death

Former prison psychologist Eric Reininga says he was fired for blowing the whistle on the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for trying to cover up the circumstances of an inmate's death. Joseph Duran, who breathed through a t
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Former prison psychologist Eric Reininga says he was fired for blowing the whistle on the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for trying to cover up the circumstances of an inmate's death. Joseph Duran, who breathed through a t

With lawyers for state inmates insisting that a secret report prepared by California’s top prison psychiatrist must be made public, attorneys in the case say more whistleblowers are beginning to come forward.

The revelation came during a hearing in federal court in Sacramento on Monday, where U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller is wrestling with how to deal with a 160-page report compiled by Dr. Michael Golding, the top psychiatrist in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Golding leaked the report two weeks ago to the federal receiver overseeing medical care in the prisons, and lawyers for the inmates say the report contains allegations that corrections officials have provided misleading and inaccurate information to Mueller.

Now, the judge is set to decide whether she can make the report public with some redactions to protect inmate privacy rights.

Lawyers for the state are arguing that names of state officials listed in the report should also be redacted, and Mueller is expected to issue an order soon on whether and when the report is released.

Golding has yet to speak publicly about his decision to release the report, and his attorney has told Mueller she wants him and anyone who helped him in the work protected from retaliation by CDCR.

“Dr. Golding is a whistleblower,” attorney Wendy Musell told the judge. “There are other whistleblowers, you honor.”

Musell did not provide specifics in court, but Michael Bien, the lead attorney for the 30,000 state prison inmates who need psychiatric care, said after court that he understood more CDCR workers were coming forward as whistleblowers.

“We are also hearing from former employees,” Bien said. “We can’t talk to the current ones.”

The fight over Golding’s report has upended a previous agreement that the attorneys for the inmates had with the state over how many psychiatrists are needed to treat inmates. The inmates’ attorneys now say there has been a serious breach of trust, given Golding’s allegations, and asked Mueller to appoint a private law firm as an independent investigator to look into the allegations.

Mueller said she hoped to avoid that, and instead wants to scheduled an evidentiary hearing that likely will take place in December with Golding as “witness number one.”

Mueller said she wants to determine whether “fraud upon the court” has been committed.

“I’m trying to get to the bottom of what’s happened,” she said.

Attorneys for the inmates say Golding’s report is a public record and should be made public, and Mueller said she expected a fight regardless of how she rules.

“I have no doubt that within 30 seconds of my decision there will be an appeal filed,” she said.

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