I've written several posts (listed here) on various controversies surrounding Coalinga State Hospital, California's costly boondoggle for civilly committed sex offenders.
Here is the latest buzz. (I am hearing all of this third-hand and I haven’t seen it reported in any official sources, so take it for what it’s worth.)
Due to a severe shortage of staff, the hospital is operating at full capacity with only about 700-some out of a maximum of 1,500 patients. That means that if a patient goes to court, he cannot return "home" until a bed opens up. Since the "hospital" is really a long-term detention facility from which few people are released, this can take many months. Meanwhile, the sex offender is housed in a county jail's protective custody unit, which is much more restrictive than general population housing.
Worse, if a patient is called as a witness in a fellow patient's civil commitment proceeding, he too can expect to lose his bed. It is hard to find willing witnesses when they've got to be willing to go to jail for you, for an indefinite period of time.
I'm told that the hospital has about 700-some patients. It could hold 1,500 if it had a full staff. But despite an intensive campaign, recruiters have found only 900 people so far who are willing to work there, or about 55 percent of the 1,600 they need in order to run all of the units and programs.
Meanwhile, I'm hearing that the expert witness panel of the state Department of Mental Health is being disbanded. Less expensive staff psychologists are replacing the contractors, some of whom were earning upwards of $1 million per year. The massive earnings were becoming a focal point for defense attorneys during cross-examinations of state witnesses. I'm told that jurors' eyes practically popped out of their heads when they heard about the "boatloads" of money, as one expert described her earnings.
If anyone finds published news on these topics I would be grateful if you posted them in the Comments section, so others can access them.
An L.A. Times article on the beleaguered hospital is here.
Postscript: On Aug. 10, 2008, the L.A. Times published an expose on the massive earnings of state SVP evaluators. The article is here; my post on it is here.