Coalinga State Hospital

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Coalinga State Hospital
California Department of State Hospitals
LocationCoalinga, Fresno County, California, United States
ListsHospitals in California
Coalinga State Hospital

Coalinga State Hospital (CSH) is a state mental hospital in Coalinga.

The facility opened on September 5, 2005; the newest state hospital to be constructed in California in more than 50 years. It is a maximum security facility allegedly built to ensure that sexually violent predators stay out of the community.[1][2] Currently, the facility houses 941 individuals alleged to be sexually violent predators[3] and 294 mentally disordered offenders.[4] The facility also houses 50 mentally ill prisoners[4] from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), but the California Department of State Hospitals aims to designate CSH as a civil commitment facility only. CSH also houses two inmates deemed Not guilty by reason of insanity and one individual under the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act.[4]

Intake and occupancy[edit]

In California all prisoners convicted of sexual assault or child sexual abuse are flagged and reviewed six months prior to parole.[5] The controversy, regarding those who are labelled as “sexually violent predators” is addressed below; however, the law in California dictates that to be provided with the classification as a sexually violent predator, an individual must have at least one identified victim, have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness resulting in volitional impairment (most commonly paraphilia or pedophilia), and must have established a relationship with a person with the intent to cause victimization. If both evaluators agree that the prisoner meets the criteria, he is to be committed to a hospital for treatment. If one agrees and the other does not, an additional two evaluators review the prisoner's history. If those final two reach agreement that the prisoner meets the criteria, the prisoner is considered a ward of the state and should be civilly committed to CSH. [6]

About the facility[edit]

The state began construction on Coalinga State Hospital in the fall of 2001. According to the facility's official Web site, CSH has 1.2 million gross square feet (gsf) of floor space. This includes 900,000 gsf for clinical services and programs, 158,000 gsf for support services, 75,000 gsf for administration, and 67,000 gsf for plant operations. The facility is located at the edge of the Coastal Mountain Range in the heart of California just outside the City of Coalinga in proximity to the Pleasant Valley State Prison. The annual operating budget of CSH is over $200 million (i.e. over $200,000 per "patient").


The median age of the committed inhabitants is 47.1 and this is expected to increase as the facility's population continues to age. Of these aged individuals, there are hundreds who are physically infirm including those who are unable to walk without the aid of walkers and those who are on life-support systems. Despite their medical conditions the state continues to insist they must be detained at the facility.

The inhabitant population consists of those who are deemed by the state’s evaluators to suffer from: "volitional impairment" and dangerousness (in that they are likely to re-offend not of their own free choice).[7]


The facility has been the subject of controversy as it has been deemed by some to be a place of unconstitutionally punitive detention for those fraudulently deemed both dangerous and mentally ill despite the state knowing otherwise.[8]

It is a maximum security facility labelled (by the government of the state of California) as a "civil-commitment facility" and others as a prison. According to the state it was built to ensure that individuals, labelled as "sexually violent predators" receive treatment for their mental disorder(s) and do not re-offend within the community as a result of their mental disorders.[9][1][10] According to others it is merely a prison. [11] Some have argued that the methodology behind the determination of those who are subject to being detained at such facilities is not scientific and rational resulting in the detention being merely punitive. [12]

The controversy extended beyond the US when UK Courts identified the detention of certain Coalinga inmates as a human rights violation. This occurred in 2015, when the state of California sought to extradite an alleged child sexual abuser known only as Mr. G from the United Kingdom. The UK courts did not permit this extradition as they were made aware that Mr. G could be subject to post-sentence imprisonment at Coalinga State Hospital. The court heard evidence which stated that the Sexually Violent Predator Act's "civil commitment scheme" is applied too broadly in California, meaning that many people could be classed as being of 'unsound mind' even if their diagnosis fell 'far short' of this definition within the meaning of Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Therefore, the court ruled that Mr. G’s detention at Coalinga would have amounted to a ‘flagrant’ breach of Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights.[13]


California law allows so-called sexually violent predators to be committed to the facility indefinitely (under Jessica's Law) while they are receiving treatment. Thus, treatment is offered, but is not required. Approximately 1/3 of inhabitants take part in the Sex Offender Treatment Program (SOTP).[14] The facility has an approximate 1,286-bed capacity[15].

The state’s position is that they are offering CSH’s inhabitants adequate treatment; namely, what the state refers to as its Sex Offender Treatment Program (SOTP).

As of April 2009, the facility had released 13 inhabitants into the “out-patient” portion of its program run by Liberty Healthy Care.

The inhabitants detained in this facility have noted that they are faced with a system they believe is one wherein the state has no interest in their being treated, deemed to have benefited from such treatment and subsequently released (as would be the case in an actual hospital). Rather, the inhabitants indicate their experiences suggest the state is intent to use Coalinga State Hospital as an internment camp by refusing to provide any rational treatment program whatsoever to the victims (i.e. treatment that conforms to that which the Federal Courts deemed to amount to the "minimum standards of treatment" after the State of California had been sued by the U.S. Department of Justice for defrauding mental health patients (under the state's care) of adequate treatment). [16]The patients note that the facility refuses to monitor patients' current symptoms of the mandated disorders, to offer a minimum of 20 hours per week of treatment designed to target their alleged disorders and otherwise conform to the Mayberg consent decree that resulted from the above noted US DOJ action. The patients note that staff working at the facility often stare unsympathetic at the victims who repeatedly beg them to provide them with the adequate treatment the facility's administrators prohibit (i.e. scientifically approved assessments of their alleged volitional impairment disorder, for daily sex offender treatment, for timely assessments deemed by facility staff as necessary to progress toward release and for the documentation of any relevant symptoms of their disorder).

The inhabitants contend that but for these failures, the majority of them would participate in the treatment program.

Three-quarters of CSH's 850-plus detainees refuse to participate in a core treatment program, undermining a central piece of Coalinga State Hospital's purported mission.[17] The vast majority refuse to participate beyond the first phase of a five-phase therapy regimen. Only 25 to 30 percent of sexually violent predators consent to participate in the active phases of California's sex offender treatment program.[18]

A federal judge ruled a similar program in Minnesota to be unconstitutional.[19]

Representation in other media[edit]

Filmmaker Louis Theroux directed a BBC television documentary based on Coalinga Hospital; it is entitled A Place for Paedophiles (2009), showing the lives of CSH patients who are indefinitely incarcerated at the hospital. The one-hour program first aired on BBC Two in the United Kingdom on 19 April 2009, and in Australia in December 2012, as the seventh in a series of Theroux specials. This special will not be shown in the United States. Patient health care laws, primarily the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), forbid the disclosure in the US of a person's illness (including mental health issues) without their consent.[20] These laws only apply within the U.S., so that is why the show is allowed to be shown outside the U.S. The program made passing reference to the fact that there were those who believed the facility was merely a prison disguised as a hospital.


  1. ^ a b Romney, Lee (March 5, 2006). "Coalinga State Hospital Is Sitting Nearly Empty". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California: Tronc. Retrieved September 18, 2009.
  2. ^ Gold, Scott; Romney, Lee (November 15, 2007). "Treatment replaced by turmoil". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California: Tronc. Retrieved October 7, 2015.
  3. ^ "CA Dept of State Hospital's - Coalinga". California Department of State Hospitals. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  4. ^ a b c "CA Dept of State Hospitals - Coalinga".
  5. ^ Ulloa, Jazmine (July 27, 2017). "More California inmates are getting a second chance as parole board enters new era of discretion". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California: Tronc. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  6. ^ Romney, Lee (March 12, 2015). "State audit faults evaluations of sexually violent predators". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California: Tronc. Retrieved October 6, 2015.
  7. ^ "In re Howard (2005) 35 Cal. 4th 117, 129; Kansas v. Crane (2002) 534 U.S. 407, 412-413; Kansas v. Hendricks (1997) 521 U.S. 346, 358; People v. Williams (2003) 31 Cal. 4th 757, 759; Hubbert v. Superior Court (1999) 19 Cal. 4th 1138, 1156"
  8. ^ Lave, Tamara Rice (2011). "Controlling Sexually Violent Predators: Continued Detention at What Cost?". New Criminal Law Review. 14 (2): 213–280. ISSN 1933-4192.
  9. ^ Senate Bill 1143. "California Senate Legislation: Sec.1 of Stats. 1995, c. 762 (S.B. 1143)". California Senate.
  10. ^ Gold, Scott; Romney, Lee (November 15, 2007). "Treatment replaced by turmoil". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 7, 2015.
  11. ^ Mays, MacKenzie (April 6, 2018). "We pay millions for sex offender therapy at Coalinga hospital. Most patients aren't in it". Fresno, California: The McClatchy Company. Retrieved April 10, 2018.
  12. ^ "Sex Offenders Locked Up on a Hunch". The New York Times. New York City: New York Times Company. August 15, 2015. Retrieved May 20, 2018.
  13. ^ Pellot-Hernandez, Mélódie (December 15, 2015). "U.S. civil confinement clashes with U.K. and E.U. human-rights laws". North Carolina Journal of International Law. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  14. ^ Department of State Hospitals – Coalinga Facility Fact Sheet (PDF) (Report). Coalinga, California: State of California Department of State Hospitals. February 2013. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  15. ^ "Department of State Hospitals - Coalinga". California Department of State Hospitals. California Department of State Hospitals. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  16. ^ "USA v. Mayberg, United States District Court (Central District of California), Case No. cv-06-2667-GPS". United States District Courts Records.
  17. ^ Gold, Scott; Romney, Lee (November 15, 2007). "Treatment replaced by turmoil". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California: Tronc. Retrieved September 3, 2009.
  18. ^ Miller, Jeslyn A. (December 2010). "Sex Offender Civil Commitment: The Treatment Paradox". California Law Review. Retrieved October 7, 2015.
  19. ^ Vaughan, Monica (June 26, 2015). "State hospital civil commitment ordered for molester". Appeal-Democrat. Marysville, California: Freedom Communications. Retrieved October 8, 2015.
  20. ^ Theroux, Louis (17 April 2009). "Where they keep the paedophiles". BBC News Online. Retrieved 22 April 2009.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 36°7′51″N 120°14′25″W / 36.13083°N 120.24028°W / 36.13083; -120.24028