Crime - Sacto 911

Third prison psychiatrist comes forward with allegations over inmate care

Attorney discusses claim that state is misleading federal court on mental health care

Michael Bien, the lead attorney for 30,000 California inmates who need mental health care, discusses the accusation by the state's chief prison psychiatrist that state officials are providing misleading and inaccurate data on how it treats inmates.
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Michael Bien, the lead attorney for 30,000 California inmates who need mental health care, discusses the accusation by the state's chief prison psychiatrist that state officials are providing misleading and inaccurate data on how it treats inmates.

A third psychiatrist whistleblower has come forward with allegations involving the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s treatment of inmates, the latest in a series of tips to authorities that have sparked a federal court review of the agency.

U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller issued an order Wednesday morning instructing CDCR not to retaliate against Dr. Melanie Gonzalez, a psychiatrist who has provided a complaint to the federal receiver overseeing care inside California’s prisons.

Mueller’s order provides no details about what information Gonzalez provided, but notes that she is represented by attorney Wendy Musell, the same lawyer representing Dr. Michael Golding.

Golding is the state prison system’s chief psychiatrist, who compiled a 161-page report alleging corrections officials have provided misleading information to Mueller about the level of care being provided to inmates.

Mueller has previously ordered CDCR officials not to retaliate against Golding or anyone who helped him compile his report, which she made public last week.

The judge’s latest order instructs CDCR to “not retaliate against Dr. Golding or Dr. Melanie Gonzalez or any person who assisted Dr. Golding in preparing his report.”

Musell did not respond to a request for comment. CDCR press secretary Vicky Waters, who has said previously that the department “strongly disagrees” with Golding’s allegations, said corrections officials “look forward to a fair and thorough review and hearing of all the facts.”

Michael Bien, the lead attorney representing inmates, said his understanding is that Gonzalez is a current CDCR psychiatrist and that her allegations will be provided to his team, as well as corrections officials. The judge indicated that she was not filing the allegations on the public court docket “at this time.”

Bien said the fact that corrections officials have denounced Golding’s allegations is a sign that they are “sticking to their guns” rather than evaluating the concerns over psychiatric care he raised.

“I think that, especially given the change in the public statements attacking Dr. Golding and his allegations, that someone who has similar views and has expressed them is concerned about possible retaliation,” Bien said.

Mueller has said she wants to appoint an independent investigator to probe whether corrections officials have committed “fraud on the court” by providing false information on the levels of care inmates are receiving.

A third CDCR psychiatrist, Dr. Karuna Anand, has made allegations similar to Golding’s, and says she was fired by CDCR for speaking out. Anand has a civil suit pending against the agency.

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