Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Visits resume at state hospital

Officials in Coalinga won't discuss news report on drug link.
By Eddie Jimenez / The Fresno Bee

Visitation for Coalinga State Hospital residents will resume this morning, four days after visitors were banned from the facility.

A spokeswoman for the hospital for sex offenders would not discuss a news report that visits were curtailed to allow hospital police to investigate claims that visitors were smuggling drugs, electronics and weapons into the hospital.

In an e-mail late Monday afternoon, Deborah Ireland, the hospital's external affairs director, would only confirm that visitations would resume today.

"We cannot discuss hospital security issues," Ireland wrote.

Hospital patient Greg Peters said visitations were banned beginning at midday Friday to punish patients for a planned demonstration by family and friends two days later at the hospital.

The protest involved about 40 relatives and friends who say patients are being held unlawfully, said Jaymmie Stallworth, whose husband, Lavell, is a hospital resident.

The state Department of Mental Health houses sexually violent predators in Coalinga after they finish their prison sentences under a procedure called civil detainment, in which criminals can be held indefinitely after completing their sentences if they're still considered a threat.

"They shut down the hospital because of the protest," Jaymmie Stallworth said.

She believes the smuggling allegations were a smokescreen.

Peters agreed, saying, "Put two and two together. The demonstration was Sunday." The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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