Monday, August 27, 2007

Transcript from a portion of the August 27 edition of the KPFA Evening News

"Sex offender detainees at Coalinga State Hospital are in the third week of a nonviolent strike seeking restoration of their civil rights. The men have served their prison sentences but authorities have judged them likely to offend again, and they're being kept in preventive detention. The men say they're being treated the same as inmates still serving time.
Wendell Harper reports: More than 600 Department of Corrections prisoners, now civil detainees point to what they say is a staff shakeup of the facility wide shut down as evidence of their strike’s effectiveness and the administration's desperation in containing the revolt. Representing the prisoners on the outside, Friends and Families of California Detainees Director Allan Marshall. He said the former inmates effectively have shut down all sex offender treatment.

Marshall: As it is now, sex offenders are an incredibly wide ranging group of individuals, some of whom, doubtless, are dangerous people. Unfortunately, I'm afraid; almost all of them are being tarred with the same brush. And the term sexually violent predator has come into some popularity in this country and has come to mean something quite different from what any reasonable person would expect sexually violent would mean. Factors such as the age of the victim, the number of the victims and whether they are related or not. Those are factors which they take into consideration in calling someone sexually violent -- not at all what we would typically think of [as] violent. So they have sort of redefined terms which I believe is a means to inflame public opinion, and I think that has resulted in very Draconian, citizen based demand for further punishment of sex offenders.

Wendell Harper: In the Coalinga State Hospital the civil detainees have been on strike since August 6th, demanding the restoration of their civil rights having previously served their entire sentences in prison. These former inmates insist that conditions under which they are being held are unconstitutional and inhumane and go far beyond the narrow constraints under which the laws were enacted.

Michael St. Martin: Our number one issue is the assessments which they have never done on any of us. I’ve been here at this hospital for eleven months and I’ve never seen a psychiatrist. They’ve never done an evaluation to determine where I’m at or what I need for treatment or what’s necessary for me to be released or any of that stuff. They don’t have any staff here. They had 11 psychologists. They’re now down to 8 psychologists because three just left. Of those 8 psychologists, only four of them are licensed so they only have 4 licensed clinicians. They have 3 psychiatrists here at the hospital for about 700 people and those psychiatrists have been brought in from India. The second thing is that we have this huge, huge deficit of doctors here - medical doctors.

Wendell Harper: [that was] patient representative Michael St. Martin. The US Supreme Court, according to St. Martin and civil detainee Tom Watson upheld the constitutionality of laws detaining sex offenders beyond their prison terms to protect society and treat offenders. But the Court’s order requires that further detention not have the effect of punishing offenders twice for the same offense. But the detainees have been told, according to the strikers, that they have no rights.

Tom Watson: The patients have got just basically tired of the way they’re being treated. The patients here are civil commitments, and they have been treating them like they were prisoners. So the patients went on strike.

Wendell Harper: During each year for the last generation, Prison Justice Day is observed in Canada as prison rights advocates hold a one-day strike to honor and support inmates in that country.

Woman Reporter: Brenda, a former prisoner - who was not a sex offender but did endure the medical system in a Canadian prison: Even though the Canadian government and the Corrections Service of Canada acknowledges that over-representation, and has made legislation to deal with it through conditional sentencing and alternatives to incarceration, those numbers continue to increase. So today is 1974’s, when Eddie Naylon died in solitary confinement in Millhaven Prison and Eddie was a lifer and he had been on a working unit in the prison. He wanted to transfer to a non-working unit and one of the guards had told him the only way to get a transfer was to sign a [garbled].

Wendell Harper: The Department of Corrections was not available for comment.
The sex offender detainee system is nationwide. As in the state of New York, the National Association of Mental Illness decries the housing of sexually violent former inmates without psychiatric diagnoses in mental health facilities for reasons of cost, capacity, safety and stigma.
Michael St. Martin: One of the major things that needs to be done is Dr. Mayberg needs to be removed as the Director of the Department of Mental Health. He’s been in control of the Department of Mental Health for over 20 years. He made a statement when they had the hearings about two years ago on the Justice Department findings that were scathing, and his response was “well, we noticed we had a problem about 12 years ago and we’ve been working on it.” Well, if anybody in a normal job knew that they had a problem 12 years ago and they continued to fail, none of ‘em would be their position for 12 years to be able to continue to fail. Dr. Mayberg has run a reign over an organization that is almost in total collapse. The medical treatment here is so substandard. The staff shortages in all the hospitals are so far-reaching that people are just in danger for their lives the way that they’re running this place.
Reporting for KPFA News, this is Wendell Harper".

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