Prison psychologist alleges California corrections officials hid details of inmate death
A federal judge in Sacramento has rejected the state’s efforts to keep a whistleblower report on psychiatric care in California prisons secret, saying she will allow much of the controversial 160-page document to be filed for public view Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller issued the order Thursday afternoon directing lawyers in the case to submit by Tuesday redacted versions of the report that was compiled by Dr. Michael Golding, the top prison psychiatrist for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Golding leaked the report three weeks ago to a federal overseer of medical care in the prisons. Since then, he and lawyers for state inmates have been fighting to have the report be made public with inmate-patient names excluded from public view.
Lawyers for 30,000 inmates who need psychiatric care say the report contains allegations that corrections officials have provided misleading and inaccurate information to the court about the amount and type of psychiatric care the inmates receive. Mueller has said she wants a hearing to determine whether they have committed fraud upon the court by fudging the true results of their efforts to improve medical care.
State lawyers, who could appeal the order before Wednesday, have argued against releasing the document before an investigation into it is conducted, arguing that the report’s contents could harm working relationships and slander state employees named in it.
Mueller largely rejected those arguments, saying “the public’s interest in accessing Dr. Golding’s report outweighs defendants’ articulated interests.”
The judge said she would allow redactions of employee names, some work titles and phone numbers and email addresses for now.
“The court’s limited approval of certain redactions is based on the sensitive nature of information in the report and exhibits, the possibility individuals other than Dr. Golding identified in the report may claim whistleblower status or otherwise may face serious ramifications.” Mueller wrote in the order.
She added that she would revisit the issue of whether the redactions remain in place later.
Golding has not spoken publicly since leaking the report, and Mueller has ordered CDCR not to retaliate against him for compiling the report. Since word of his actions became public, other whistleblowers have come forward, lawyers in the case say.