Little Pay Off at Coalinga Hospital Despite Costing Millions for Sex Offender TherapyMay 29, 2018 by Criminal Defense, Sex Crimes in
A health care facility in Fresno County may not be paying off despite millions of taxpayer dollars having been invested since its opening in 2005. The Department of State Hospitals – Coalinga is a high-security psychiatric hospital that treats forensically committed patients, most of whom are sexually violent predators. The hospital contains nearly 1,300 beds, employs thousands of employees, and operates on a $250 million annual budget.
According to Department of State Hospitals spokesman Ken August, “as with all state hospitals, Coalinga State Hospital is closely monitored.” Official oversight by California Health and Human Services and the state auditor has not revealed glaring issues, but many of the hospital’s patients claim that their treatment is futile, and that Coalinga is little more than an expensive holding pen.
CHS – Coalinga Only Treats a Fraction of Its Patients
In February, state legislators held a conference call with patients at Coalinga. During this call, the patients offered a rare glimpse into the experience of sex offenders detained in state mental health facilities.
The Department of State Hospitals has stated that 36 percent of Coalinga’s patients are currently in treatment. Treatment includes a variety of procedures, from polygraphs to penile arousal tests. Some patients willfully undergo chemical castration to improve their chances of completing rehabilitation. Patients cannot regain their freedom until doctors certify that they are no longer dangerous. For some patients, this may not be achievable.
Many individuals opt out of their treatment on the belief that they will never be allowed to return to society. Jeff Gambord, who was convicted of rape and has been at Coalinga since 2006, told legislators, “we have taken men and made them believe that if you go to these classes, that you can have your life back. But that’s a lie.”
Since 2006, 179 patients have been unconditionally released from Coalinga, which means that they can live freely. One condition of their release, however, is that they still must register as a sex offender. There are now 13 patients enrolled in the outpatient program, a court-supervised conditional release similar to probation. Out of the 37 patients that have enrolled in the outpatient program, 10 committed violations of their release conditions and had to return to Coalinga.
Patients Fear They Will Never Be Released
The path from rehabilitation to release is not always clear. Patient Billy Redding stated, “we are stuck in a never-ending cycle of shame and guilt for our crimes, no matter how hard we work issues out in our therapy, with no relief.” Redding, who served 16 years in prison for rape, has worked with over 90 different therapists since his admission to Coalinga. He is pessimistic about his chances of release but believes that in his case treatment has worked.
Dr. Fred Berlin is a Johns Hopkins University psychiatrist with 30 years’ experience treating sexual disorder. In February 2018, he worked closely with Coalinga patients. On therapy as a useful tool towards rehabilitation, he stated, “if it’s just a ruse and there’s not effective treatment happening, then we should at least have a conversation about it and not have treatment that seems to go on forever.”
Call a Sex Crimes Lawyer from Our Firm for Help
A conviction for a sexual offense can follow you for years after your release from prison, because registering as a sex offender can severely hamper your private life and professional prospects. For this reason, you should think carefully before pleading guilty to a sex offense charge. At Michael McKneely, Criminal Defense Lawyer, our goal is to protect the rights of our clients at every stage of the criminal justice process. If you or a family member has been charged with a sex offense, call us today at (559) 443-7442, or reach out online to schedule a free case evaluation.