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Coalinga State Hospital said to be on lockdown, but no official confirmation given

Officers at Coalinga State Hospital in a file photo. Lockdown conditions are being reported inside the facility, though state officials have yet to confirm that is the case.
Officers at Coalinga State Hospital in a file photo. Lockdown conditions are being reported inside the facility, though state officials have yet to confirm that is the case. Fresno Bee file

Trash-littered hallways, jammed doors, broken windows and clogged sewage are problems reported at Coalinga State Hospital, which is being described as having “riot-like conditions,” according to emails sent to The Bee.

The hospital’s website states the visitor’s center is closed due to a lockdown. Hospital staff would not confirm a lockdown had occurred.

An email sender called Gabby Joyce sent a message contending that Coalinga State Hospital had been on lockdown since at least Saturday as several inmates protested a new electronics ban the hospital recently implemented. Gabby Joyce did not want to be identified, but said “I have inside information and can assure you all of this is true.”

On Jan. 11, the Department of State Hospitals approved an emergency regulation regarding digital devices, according to a California Administrative Law document.

It addresses “the possession, viewing, and distribution of illicit materials by removing digital memory storage, other means of memory storage, specified digital media players and digital media burners from the personal possession of patients.”

Patients are only allowed to have commercially produced CDs and DVDs and media players with no access to the internet, the document reads, and the hospital is allowed to supervise patients’ use of digital media.

The change went into effect on Jan. 12 and expires July 12, 2018.

A California Department of State Hospitals representative did not return phone calls for confirmation of the lockdown and the hospital’s current conditions.

“For more than 24 hours now, Coalinga State Hospital has been on lockdown status,” Gabby Joyce said.

At least 60 windows were broken in what were near riot-like conditions in the hospital, the email from Gabby Joyce said. That sender said hospital police used a heavily armored task force to go in and subdue certain patients earlier Sunday.

Patients are not allowed to walk around, or communicate with their attorneys or families, and phones have been taken, Gabby Joyce said. Hot meals were not being served, disposable razors were not being handed out and several of the units were without water.

“What they have done to these patients is totally against federal laws,” Gabby Joyce said. “They are not allowed to receive calls from their families, attorneys, or anyone. If you try to call one of the units, it simply rings and rings. No one answers because they took all the phones away from them.”

An attorney who did not wish to be named said her client's husband has been a patient at the hospital for 10 years. Her practice has been to call her husband every day, but she said she could not reach him this weekend.

The attorney believes the crackdown on electronics is a retaliation for the patients having a part in defeating Measure C in November, a 1-cent sales tax increase that would have helped the city of Coalinga's deficit.

The woman said not even a private line that attorneys use was being answered, and she doesn't think it was due to the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

"It's all very curious, their timing," she said.

The hospital has 1,286 beds, according to its website. Of that, 941 patients, or 73 percent of the population in 2016, are classified as sexually violent predators.

The hospital began treating patients after it opened in 2005. Its website says the hospital works to strengthen “the individual’s self-regulation skills to prepare him for a life free of sexual offending.”

Ashleigh Panoo contributed. Jessica Johnson: 559-441-6051, @iamjesslj

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