Dec 4, 2009 - UNION Press Conference

Wrongful Deaths, Sacramento State Capitol

Dr. Deborah Lonergan

Remarks of Dr. Deborah Lonergan

My name is Deborah Lonergan. I am a forensic psychologist with over 20 years of experience in the mental health field. I joined the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) as a staff psychologist in January of 1995. I was assigned to work at the Northern California Women's Facility (NCWF) in Stockton, CA., to provide mental health services to female inmates.

In 1998, I transferred to the California Medical Facility at Vacaville (CMF) where I worked with male inmates. In 1998, I was promoted to a position as a Senior Psychologist, Specialist at CDCR headquarters in Sacramento. One of my duties there was to accompany federal court monitors to CDCR facilities all over the state to ensure compliance with constitutionally adequate medical and mental health services ordered by the court. I retired from the CDCR at the end of 2007. I would like to say that during my tenure with the department I worked with many fine professionals who treated inmates fairly and compassionately.

However, from my first day at NCWF until the day I retired I also witnessed years of physical and emotional abuse of inmates as well as extreme neglect and denial of their basic rights. Per CDCR policy all suicides have to be reviewed. In June of 2006, I was sent to Chuckawalla Valley State Prison (CVSP), in Chuckawalla, CA., to review the suicide of Joseph Sullivan. Mr. Sullivan was found hanging in his cell on June 4th, 2006, at approximately 11:50 PM. Mr. Sullivan was 26 years old. I suspected from the moment I arrived at CVSP that something was seriously wrong and there appeared almost immediately that there might be a serious cover-up of staff misconduct which led to Mr. Sullivan's death. Per procedure I went to various parts of the institution and interviewed numerous staff and inmates, reviewed every page of Mr. Sullivan's criminal and mental health records and took copies of all the relevant documents I discovered. I took all of this data back to Sacramemnto with me.

It was all separated into chrolonlogical order and the file with my notes (at least an inch thick) was stored in a file in my cubicle where my suicide reviews were kept. Before I could write up my notes I had to go out on medical leave and another psychologist, without further contact with the institution, wrote up and signed what I consider to be a white-washed and inaccurate report without any reference to my role as the reviewer. I understand that my original notes are now missing. Although, only two people were allowed to have access to them, one of whom was the person who wrote and signed the suicide review. There is no doubt in my mind from my extensive involvement with this case and providing testimony as an expert witness, that CDCR is directly responsible for the suicide of Joseph Sullivan.

I believe that CDCR has been, and continues to be, deliberately indifferent to the medical, mental health and custodial needs of inmates and that Joseph Sullivan's case is an indictment of the malicious mistreatment of inmates incarcerated in the entire CDCR. Although, there is only sadness and grief left for those who loved Joseph Sullivan, I hope that the settlement of this case brings closure to their cause to expose the mismanagement of California's prison system, from the top on down. I offer my sincerest condolences to the Sullivans and I would like to say that I have been proud to have been a part of this process. The system must be reformed and made more humane.

 

 

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