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New California SVP Facility Struggles to Attract Staff

The new $338 million Coalinga State Hospital (CSH), which opened in October 2005, houses only the best-behaved 170 Of Atascadero State Hospitals (ASH) 550 sexually violent predators (SVP), as of March 2006. Although the physical plant is in place, the staff is not. Of the 32 housing units at CSH, 30 do not have the legally required complement of licensed nurses and psychiatric technicians. Nor is the problem temporary. In 2005, the California Legislature reluctantly suspended its existing laws for six years to permit the supervision of mental patients with fewer skilled staff.

SVP Anthony Iannalfo, recently transferred from ASH, likes the new facility because of its amenities, which include private music rooms with keyboards and drums, woodworking and printing studios, a gleaming gym, computer classes, and a Native American Sweat Lodge. Still, he refuses treatment, because he is banking instead on eventual court-ordered release.
Paradoxically, it was the lack of staff at CSH that made Iannalfo a prime candidate for transfer from ASH.

The virtually empty CSH was initially staffed by only a skeleton crew of two hospital police officers (and no licensed caregivers) per 50 man housing unit. With its remote location in Californias central valley, and offering relatively low wages, CSH portends uncertain prospects for fulfilling its SVP mental hospital mission. Indeed, the standoff appears to Pacific Grove, California SVP defense attorney Jean Matulis to confirm his observation that the not-so-subtle real purpose of Californias SVP program is de facto incarceration -- not treatment.

Source: Los Angeles Times.

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