A California state psychiatric hospital, housing mostly sexually violent predators, has been locked down and visits canceled after a weekend protest over a crackdown on devices, like flash drives, that officials say are often used to smuggle child pornography.
The patients at Coalinga State Hospital were protesting new restrictions on electronic devices, Department of State Hospitals spokesman Ralph Montano said Tuesday, but no injuries were reported.
Department officials have cited lawsuit testimony asserting that there is a “porn epidemic” at Coalinga to justify the crackdown.
At least 200 Coalinga patients have been involved in the possession or transmission of child pornography and there are typically two or three new child pornography cases reported each month which require investigation, officials said. Patients also copy and sell or exchange legal movies and music for profit, the department said.
The facility in Fresno County can hold nearly 1,300 patients, nearly three-quarters of whom are court-designated sexually violent predators. Most of the remaining patients are being treated for mental illness after completing prison sentences.
A notice on the hospital’s website said the visitor center was closed Sunday due to the lockdown until further notice.
“One thing is of concern is that the phones have been shut down and the detainees there have been unable to confer with counsel,” said Los Angeles-based attorney Ezra Landes, who has represented Coalinga patients in a class-action lawsuit alleging poor conditions. “Phones have been confiscated.”