California Prisons Admonished By Federal Judge Regarding Mental Health Care

A federal judge found that California prison officials intentionally filed misleading data with the court regarding how often prison inmates were receiving mental health care. U.S. District Court Judge Kimberley J. Mueller in a Sacramento federal court stated that the California prison system would continue to be overseen by the court until it can demonstrate that it can provide adequate mental health care.


The judge’s order validates claims by Dr. Michael Golding, the top psychiatrist in the state’s prison system, who compiled a whistleblower report that accused the state of providing false and misleading data to the court to coverup for woefully inadequate mental health care. The judge found that, in order to get out from under years of court oversight of mental health care services, the state manipulated data regarding how frequently mentally ill inmates were seen by psychiatrists. The state also fudged data on the amount of care mentally ill inmates were receiving. Dr. Golding has remained in his job at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) but claims that he has faced retaliation for his report. This is despite the court’s order that no action be taken against him.

Misleading Data

In her order, the judge noted that it was clear that the state had offered misleading data to the court. The judge could not find that this misleading data amounted to fraud and noted that it might be the result of a broken system. Some of the misleading data may have stemmed from the fact that officials changed the requirement that inmates see a psychiatrist every 30 days to now requiring it every 60 days. This made it seem as though mentally ill inmates were receiving adequate care. Dr. Golding also noted in his testimony that the state relied on treatment from clinicians rather than psychiatrists. The state will now have to do a mountain of work to regain the confidence of the court and others in the community.

If you or a loved one has a mental disability and has been arrested or convicted of a crime, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Elizabeth Kelley specializes in representing individuals with mental disabilities. To schedule a consultation call (509) 991-7058.

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