Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Many Possible Explanations For No Visiting During the Demonstration at C.S.H.

We read today, via the Associated Press, that "State officials say they are banning relatives from visiting a state hospital that treats sex offenders while police investigate reports of 'smuggling' (source)".

That's a good one. Previously, we have heard, variously, that visiting was closed due to:
A. The need to clean the visiting room (it must have been awfully dirty!)
B. That the camera in the visiting center was broken.
C. That a "shank" had been found buried in the yard.
D. Lost keys (yes, again with the lost keys!)
E. "The outside activities planned for this weekend"

The last explanation, and the one I am most inclined to believe, came directly to us from a Lieutenant Walters (sp?) who, when asked by demonstrators why visiting had been suspended, offered just that, referring directly to the demonstration which had nearly wrapped-up by 2:00 p.m. Sunday, March 2nd.

Immediately after the rally, several carloads of demonstrators as well as two or three local t.v. news crews attempted to gain access to the facility grounds with the intention of interviewing whichever administrators might be available. While no one had high hopes of actually entering the facility, as expected they did get to verbally engage with the Hospital police who blocked them from venturing beyond the parking lot, at which time the Lieutenant offered the sole plausible explanation for closing all visiting of Detainees by their family and friends from Friday afternoon until Tuesday morning.

Less convincingly, he asserted that the "Patient's privileges" had been temporarily suspended for this reason. When challenged by one of the demonstrators who reminded him that visiting was not a "privilege" but a "right" (indeed, the Detainees are Civil Detainees who are assured by the U.S. Supreme Court that they are not being punished but instead retain their civil liberties) he seemed unprepared to respond and instead turned and walked away.

It is reported that several Detainees' families are considering legal remedy to compensate them for the long trips they made to Coalinga and the C.S.H. only to be refused the right to visit their family members.

The unavoidable impression we are left with is this: Executive Director Norm Kramer decided to punish the Detainees as well as their family/friends for exercising their Constitutional rights to assemble and to speak on their own behalf. This impulse towards "group punishment" and "message control" comes easily to the Department of Mental Health as it is a habit exercised daily in their administration of C.S.H.

We do commend Lieutenant Walters for his candor and to assure him that the whole criminal/civil distinction thing is dreadfully confusing when discussing the laws under which California's sex offender Civil Detainees are held. So it is not surprising to us that he, too, should blur those lines.

Perhaps Nancy Kincaid (C.S.H. media flack) should lead a workshop for C.S.H. employees on just that topic. She has, so far, been able to convince the credulous media that Coalinga's Detainees are uniformly "the worst of the worst" and "sexually violent predators". I believe that will begin to change, and rather soon.

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