Friday, November 23, 2007

C.S.H. Civil Detainees Press Release

Friday, November 23, 2007

Under Increasing Public Scrutiny, Coalinga State Hospital Shifts Into Crisis Mode

Since Thursday's Los Angeles Times article1 on deficient medical care and the denial of basic civil rights to Detainees being confined in Coalinga State Hospital, its Administration has moved fully into crisis mode, confidential sources from within staff report.

They report that the Hospital, unable to attract and retain employees in the drastically understaffed facility, have been hiring “temp agency psychologists” at up to three times the current going rate just to get “warm bodies” into the facility.

In addition to investigators and auditors from Sacramento who have begun to descend upon the Hospital, two representatives from Protection and Advocacy, Sean Rashkis and an assistant arrived at C.S.H. Friday to investigate the circumstances into Detainee Frank Valado's death [Detainees allege that he was left untreated on the gymnasium floor] and to interview patients regarding their medical treatment, including David Smith. Smith, who has alleged that he was denied tests and treatment over a number of months despite disturbing medical symptoms, was ultimately diagnosed with cancer of the larynx. Since its removal, he has also been diagnosed with two brain tumors.

The day after the L.A.Times article appeared, staff arrived at the the gym to install a defibrillator but then discovered that there was already one behind a locked door to the gym, as had been reported by Mike St. Martin in our press release of the week before. Also since Valado's death, Kathy Bryant has made a point of showing Detainees her “Mouth Guard” for use in performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, claiming that she had had it all along. By this, she clearly wishes to refute the allegation by Detainees witnessing Valado's death that she had said “I'm not putting my mouth on his mouth” in reference to performing mouth-to-mouth upon Valado. Other mouth guards suddenly appeared in the gym itself but, strangely, then disappeared again soon after.

Detainees were encouraged when Hospital Director Norm Kramer agreed to meet with representatives of the Detainee Strike Committee and acknowledged in that meeting that Hospital medical care has been substandard, pledging to create a database to track patient illnesses and to begin performing triage. He asked Detainees to bring forward those Patients with immediate medical needs for treatment consideration.

Deirdre D'Orazio, Director of Program Development and Evaluation Services at C.S.H. was quoted extensively in both the Times article as well as in the KSEE-24 segment which aired later that same day. D'Orazio, with a Ph.D. In Clinical Psychology with a proficiency in Forensic Psychology from “Alliant” University, oversees Coalinga's S.O.C.P. (Sex Offender Commitment Program also known as the “Phase” Program) arguably one of the largest and most expensive sex offender treatment programs in the world. She helped to open C.S.H. in September 2005 having just received her license by the State of California in December 2004.

A search using “Google Scholar” and “BASE” for locating published works in academic journals failed to produce any evidence of her scholarship in any area of psychology.

In September of this year, she told the Ventura County Star2 that the five-phase treatment program created in 1996 is too young to determine its long-term effect and that the number of patients is too small to have statistical value, hardly a ringing endorsement for a program costing taxpayers upwards of $200,000 per year per patient.

The centerpiece of this treatment modality is what D'Orazio refers to as "a psychological autopsy." Patients describe this process as part of an overall “deconstruction” of the individual, in which past events or fantasies are recounted endlessly-literally for years-by the Patient at the insistence of therapists. This approach is said to be nothing more than a “recycled” version of the failed “S.O.T.E.P.” program, dismantled years ago, and which was itself a replacement for the failed “M.D.S.O.” program.

Amongst therapists facilitating this process are self-proclaimed “survivors” of sexual abuse who, Detainees report, abuse their positions of power to exact revenge against sex offenders as a class.

As reported in the San Diego Union Tribune3, May 22, 2006, Dr. Gabrielle Paladino, a psychiatrist at Atascadero State Hospital, the facility which housed all Civilly Committed Sex Offenders before the completion of C.S.H. said, "The odds that a participant will be judged suitable for release are greater than 100 to 1.” Those who decline treatment and seek judicial release stand a better chance of winning their freedom.

Nationally recognized experts in sex offending such as Fred Berlin, Robert Prentky and Canada's Karl Hanson, have been scathing in their criticism of state treatment programs, including California's, and its civil commitment laws. One leading expert, well-acquainted with California's S.O.C.P., has described it as “miserable”.

Michael Feer, a psychiatric social worker with more than three decades of experience and who worked at Coalinga until earlier this spring, stated “The Hospital is a setup. Ostensibly, it is a treatment hospital but one built with a wink to a public that has little compunction about locking up sex offenders forever”. Feer said that he believes that many Detainees held in C.S.H. would pose no threat to the public if released.1

Marita Mayer, a Contra Costa public defender, compares the predator law to the 2002 film "Minority Report," in which people were imprisoned for future crimes envisioned by women with a gift for prophecy. “We have lowered the standard so much that we are locking up people who probably won't recommit because of a few who might." 4

According to Detainee Spokesman Michael St. Martin, an Atascadero Psychiatric Technician, Lana Garcia, once told him that she was appointed by God to punish him. “But the more serious reality is this”, he added, “I'm being held for a crime I might commit in the future by people who are committing crimes in the present.”

Howard Zonana, a Professor of Psychiatry at Yale University and Spokesperson for the American Psychiatric Association has said, “S.V.P. laws are not an attempt to gain treatment or anything close to that... What it really is is an attempt to extend prison sentences.”

"They are using a psychiatric facility to pursue a legal end," said, Mark Graff, a San Fernando Valley psychiatrist who led efforts by the California Psychiatric Association to oppose the sexually violent predator law. The law is about punishment, punishment, punishment.“ 5

Civil Detainee Spokesperson: Mike St. Martin, CO-414-3, Unit 7, P.O . BOX 5003, Coalinga , CA 93210-5003 Telephone: 559-934-0391 / 559-934-0392 email:


1. The Los Angeles Times, November 15, 2007
2.Ventura County Star1 September 2, 2007
3. San Diego Union Tribune, May 22, 2006

4.San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday, July 11, 2004
5. Contra Costa Times, Sunday, Oct. 10, 2004

L.A Times Letter to the Editor From Mike St. Martin

To the Editor,

While I believe the piece was, overall, even handed and objective, I do need to take exception to several points in your Thursday, November 15 article "Turmoil Replaces Treatment at Coalinga State Hospital". As one of the people forced to live the nightmare of confinement in C.S.H. and as one of the sources contributing to this story, I know that the paper checked and rechecked the information I, and other Detainees, provided. However, the same diligence does not appear to have been applied in investigating either the backgrounds of, or statements by, Department of Mental Health employees.

Dr. Deirdre D'Orazio was quoted as saying that she believed in her program at C.S.H. and that she wouldn't be working there if it were a scam. However, a more thorough investigation would have revealed that Dr. D'Orazio had, at the time of her appointment to head C.S.H.'s Sex Offender Treatment Program, less than one year of experience following receipt of her Psychologist's license from the State of California. Her Ph.D. is from "Alliant University".

It should be noted that the program of which she is in charge must certainly be one of the largest such sex offender treatment programs in the world. How is it, then, that Dr. D'Orazio emerged as the leading candidate to assume such an important position? What are her unique qualifications which set her apart from a field of candidates, some of whom were educated in institutions whose names we are likely to recognize?

I would like to propose a possible answer to this question: Dr. Deirdre D'Orazio was willing to work for an organization from which highly respected, and self-respecting, psychologists and psychiatrists flee in horror, its abysmal reputation within the psychotherapeutic community dissuading any but the most desperate. As examples of such desperation: those with significant malpractice histories; nationals from India who can tolerate much to gain U.S. Residency; and grossly under-qualified (and in some cases completely un-credentialed) individuals who will, in desperation, jump at the opportunity for a professional-sounding title and salaries at multiples of what they could possibly earn in the private sector.

Having said that, I feel a little bad for appearing to single out Dr. D'Orazio so let me be clear: she is not an exception within C.S.H.; she IS the Rule. Most people working here are grossly unqualified for their positions. We have executive level administrators with final decision-making and policy-setting latitude who possess no more than high school diplomas.

Dr. Mayberg, Head of D.M.H., has stated, "Undertaking something of this magnitude is a growing and learning experience. Where we are right now is a move in the right direction." Only in the D.M.H. can four directors in two years, one-third of the required staff, patients on strike and refusing to participate in treatment, newspapers, t.v. and radio reporting on the death of a patient who was left to die on the floor of a gymnasium for want of medical attention while staff looked on, can such a reality be considered "a move in the right direction."

He also stated that he is disappointed that so few patients choose not to participate in the "Treatment" program but that he also thinks that this is indicative of our illness. In other words, if you don't agree with me, you're sick.

Of course, Dr. D'Orazio's enthusiasm for conducting "psychological autopsies" on still-living patients has nothing to do with our unwillingness to engage in treatment which has itself been roundly derided by leading sexual abuse researchers. No, it must be symptomatic of "our illness".

This isn't the first time Dr. Mayberg has failed to rouse himself to a state of appropriate response. Last year, in testimony before the State Senate following the Justice Department's scathing report on Napa and Metropolitan Hospitals, he stated , "I also noticed that we had a problem about 12 years ago and I've been working on it."

In September of this year, D'Orazio told the Ventura County Star2 that the five-phase treatment program created in 1996 is "too young to determine its long-term effect and that the number of patients is too small to have statistical value", hardly a ringing endorsement for a program costing taxpayers upwards of $200,000 per year per patient.

Coalinga Administration still insists that there is a clear path to release. Yet of the over 800 patients under the law, the courts have only released, on average, one patient every two years. At this rate, it will take about 1,500 years for everyone to get out. But then, that's the idea, isn't it? As Michael Feer stated in your article, C.S.H. "is a treatment hospital built with a wink to the public." D.M.H. has a vested interest in this program never working.

This is a hospital on paper only - it doesn’t treat patients, but warehouses them indefinitely after they’ve completed their prison sentences. Joseph Stalin would be proud of your accomplishment.

Mike St. Martin,

Letter from Robert Bates to Los Angeles Times

Re: Turmoil Replaces Treatment at Coalinga State Hospital

As one of the named sources in your piece, I must object to the following statement, one which you did not attribute to any particular source, so that I must conclude that you wish to present it as commonly accepted and factually correct information:sex offenders tend to be manipulative and charismatic”

It should be noted that, in repeated studies of sex offenders, they (we) do not possess any particular set of personality characteristics. Law enforcement officials have informed the public that a sex offender can be anyone.

Secondly, we have never asked for internet access! Why did you report that it was among our demands as part of the strike?

What we have asked for is:

  • Basic medical care

  • Accurate Mental Health Diagnosis and truthful, unfalsified, mental health records

  • Hospital regulations that are in compliance with Federal and State regulations

  • Fundamental Civil Rights

  • Food that is at least as good as that you would feed your dog

We are, after all, civil detainees, not prisoners (even Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has said as much). As such, we are not being punished (wink, wink) so how is that asking too much?

Taxpayers should also demand some results from their greater than $1 Billion investment.

Robert Bates
Unit 6, P.O. Box 5003
Coalinga, CA 93210-5003

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanks To Our Supporters!

Voices of the Gulag would like to thank the people who have contributed to the early successes enjoyed on behalf of those being held in California's "Hosprisons".

We especially wish to thank those D.M.H. Staff who have taken a courageous stand to defend civil liberty and to uphold their professional standards. We are in your debt. Thank you so much for your help!

We also wish to thank those journalists who have, or are in the process of, shining light on the dark corridors of civil confinement in California and beyond. Reporting the truth in the midst of a witch hunt is what most distinguishes real journalists from the rest. Thank you for your brave reporting!

And we would also like to thank the family members and friends of those Civil Detainees who refuse to leave their loved ones to suffer alone in endless confinement. Without you, there would be little hope. Thanks!

At this time next year, we would like very much to be able to thank political office holders and judges for standing up to hysteria in the face of ignorance, hatred and fear. We remain hopeful that such thanks will be their due.

We would also like to thank those who have publicly advanced the cause of civil liberty for those labeled as sex offenders and for their generosity, encouragement and support. They are, in alphabetical order:

Michael Aye, Robert Baker, Alexander Cockburn, Paul Eberle, Shirley Eberle, Judith Levine, Elizabeth Loftus, Shirley Lowery, Laura Mansnerus, Alex Marbury, Marita Mayer, Malcolm McGrath, Todd Melnik, Debbie Nathan, Richard Ofshe, Camille Paglia, Mark Pendergrast, Dorothy Rabinowitz, Susan Robbins, Michael Snedeker, and Gore Vidal. Thanks!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Lawrence "Rudy" Kirk Discusses Brutal Attack In C.S.H.

Rudy Kirk recounts the severe beating that could have cost him his life and which did cause lasting, permanent neural damage. Staff did nothing to stop the attack. Now he's won a lawsuit against the State, but what's his future? He suffered nerve damage as the result of severe head injuries; this has affected his speech.

California Healthline

Hospital News Roundup for November 16, 2007
Coalinga State Hospital

Patients and some employees at Coalinga State Hospital say staffing shortages and standoffs between patients and administrators are impeding psychiatric and medical care at the facility, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The hospital was opened in 2005 to treat high-risk sex offenders who have completed their sentences but were not released because of perceived mental illnesses.

However, 75% of the hospital's more than 600 patients refuse to participate in a core treatment program, and not a single patient has completed treatment and been released, according to the latest data from August. Meanwhile, 26 of the hospital's 37 staff psychiatrist positions are vacant, leaving police officers to fill in for roles normally designated for clinicians, the Times reports (Gold/Romney, Los Angeles Times, 11/15).

Thursday, November 15, 2007

April 16, 2007 Letter to Attorney General Jerry Brown

To date, he has not received a reply. Read Letter

Civil Detainee's Death Comes Amid Allegations That Coalinga State Hospital Falls Dangerously Short In Medical Care

News Blaze
Civil Detainee's Death Comes Amid Allegations That Coalinga State Hospital Falls Dangerously Short In Medical Care

Coalinga State Hospital, California's two year old $388 million facility for confining sex offenders after serving their entire prison sentence, is coming under renewed fire in the wake of Thursday's death of patient Frank Valado, age 45.

Valado collapsed while playing basketball with other Civil Detainees in the institution's gynmasium Thursday evening. Patients witnessing the incident said that Staff response to Valado's collapse was completely inadequate and that, effectively, he received little or no treatment after being stricken.

They reported that an officer present in the gymnasium refused to radio in an alarm, despite their requests that he do so, but instead simply left the room. A Patient got the attention of another officer by pounding on a gymnasium window looking out onto the main courtyard. That officer then radioed the alarm that brought other staff to the scene.

One Patient began performing CPR on Valado and others present confirm that Valado partially regained consciousness. Then, a number of staff entered the gym, including two women, at least one of whom, Kathy Bryant, is a Registered Nurse. Officers ordered Michael Cheeks, who had been administering assistance to Valado, to halt his efforts and, along with the other men in the gym, to get up against the wall.

Bryant was then heard to say "I'm not putting my mouth on that man's mouth!" an apparent reference to her unwillingness to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on Valado.
Patients also report that the other (unidentified) woman at the scene was searching for an oxygen tank and mask but which she was unable to locate.

A crash cart was brought into the room but it was discovered that it did not include a defibrillator. Patients later stated that they knew that there was a defibrillator on the other side of an always locked door to the gym but staff made no attempt to retrieve it or any other. Throughout this, Valado remained unassisted on the floor.

The other patients were then ordered to leave the gym and a gurney was brought in and Valado was taken to the Medical unit. However, no doctors were on duty at the time so staff then called a doctor to drive to the facility. However, before the doctor arrived at C.S.H., Frank Valado died.

The "Watch Commander" reportedly ordered all police staff to remain for the next shift, even if it were their third continuous shift on duty. The Administration is said to have been seriously concerned for the possibility of Patient anger and unrest due to the poor response by the hospital in Valado's death.

Mike St. Martin, a Detainee Spokesperson who has actively sought to bring attention to what he sees as grossly negligent standards of medical care, said he was "unsurprised" by the lack of appropriate medical response by C.S.H. Staff, stating that, since the beginning, the Institution had demonstrated an utter disregard for the well-being of Patients in the facility. "The only thing about this place that says "hospital" is the sign out in front. But that sign also says 'No emergency services available'. Well, they got that part right! We refer to this place as a 'hosprison', since that is its primary function, to act as a prison, while pretending to be a hospital. The medical department here is a ticking time bomb with irresponsible delays, incorrect treatment, poor training, and medical care grossly deficient for an aging population. One can only hope that more people don't have to die before sweeping changes can be made".

"I wrote to Attorney General Jerry Brown in April of this year detailing the terrible medical conditions here and, to date, I have not received a response from him or his staff".
Since Executive Director Norm Kramer assumed authority in September, Dr. Peter Bresler has stepped down as Chief Physician and Surgeon while remaining as a staff physician. Patients bitterly complained of their treatment by Bresler, with one saying he had been told by Bresler that treatment for his seriously distended hernia would be considered "cosmetic" and thus not surgery that he would approve. It has been alleged that he was fired from a previous job as a result of "dropping a baby".

Deficient medical care and rubber stamped clinical assessments were amongst some of the chief complaints leading to the still ongoing strike by Civil Detainees, now in its third month.

Copyright © 2007, NewsBlaze, Daily News

Turmoil replaces treatment at Coalinga hospital

BREAKDOWN: A state facility meant for sexually violent predators gets low marks after two years.
Los Angeles Times, By Scott Gold and Lee Romney

Two years after California opened the nation's largest facility designed to house and treat men who have been declared sexually violent predators, Coalinga State Hospital is described by both patients and staff as an institution in turmoil.

Convinced that they stand little chance of being released and angry about perceived deficiencies at the hospital, patients are engaged in a tense standoff with administrators, according to interviews with more than 40 patients and staff members. ...

Michael Feer, a psychiatric social worker with more than three decades of experience, worked at Coalinga for a year before leaving this spring. He now works in San Diego County with recently paroled sex offenders, men who in some cases committed the same crimes as those at Coalinga but who are being released into the community, he said.

Feer said that although all Coalinga patients qualify as violent predators on paper, he believes that more than a third of them would pose no threat if released.

"They did their time, and suddenly they are picked up again and shipped off to a state hospital for essentially an indeterminate period of time," Feer said. To get out, he added, "they have to demonstrate that they are no longer a risk, which can be a very high standard. So, yeah, they do have grounds to be very upset."

The hospital, Feer said, "is a setup" -- ostensibly a treatment hospital but one built with a wink to a public that has little compunction about locking up sex offenders forever. ...

The core sex offender treatment involves such activities as a "psychological autopsy," a detailed accounting of decisions that preceded an offense. ...

As of August, two years after Coalinga opened, not a single patient had been released because of completion of the treatment program. Of the more than 600 sexually violent predators who'd been committed to the facility as of August, the latest figures available, 17 patients had been released, all of them after petitioning in court. ...

In August, for instance, according to staff members, a group of patients taped small protest fliers to their hospital-issued identification tags. Most read: "When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty." Hospital officials ordered patients to remove them.

"They said they were defacing government property," a clinician said. "But they were just making this up as they go."

It did not end well; officers eventually hauled away one patient who refused to take off his protest flier.

"They made a martyr out of him," the clinician said. "The next day, patients had bigger pieces of paper taped to them that said: 'Please don't hit me because I'm wearing this piece of paper.' " ...

Others, however, have gained the attention of a congressionally charged, federally funded group that advocates on behalf of people with physical and mental health disabilities. Protection & Advocacy Inc. attorney Sean Rashkis said the group was investigating patients' concerns.

"They have done their time and have moved into a civil commitment which is based on treatment," he said. "Some of the patients argue that that's not what they are getting. It may be the case. We'll have to see." Full Story

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Trick Or Treatment?

Lance discusses his decision to not attend regular "Treatment Team" meetings and his reasons for doing so as well as the punishment meted out to those not attending (in contravention of the law).

Sunday, November 11, 2007

As Frank Valado Lay Dying...

Mike St. Martin reports on the death of Frank Valado at Coalinga State Hospital. His report recounts Valado's final moments and the seeming indifference with which his life was regarded by California Department of Mental Health staff.