Unrest at state psychiatric hospital after crackdown on electronics: Patients were viewing child porn

Patients use one of the outdoor courtyards during a lunch break at Coalinga State Hospital.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

A crackdown on electronics at a state psychiatric hospital that houses people with histories of sexual violence has triggered “disruptive behavior” at the facility, with patients breaking windows, clogging toilets and throwing food, officials said.

The new regulations, implemented last week, were a response to patients at Coalinga State Hospital viewing and storing child pornography on their devices, Ken August, a spokesman for California Department of State Hospitals, said via email.

Last year, he said, 11 patients were arrested in connection with this behavior, while others are under investigation.

As part of the crackdown, officials restricted devices that can copy or store digital media and further limited those that have internet capabilities. Commercially produced CDs, DVDs and digital media players without internet access are permitted.


The protests over the new rules turned violent Tuesday when patients shoved police officers who were attempting to search someone. Two patients sustained minor injuries, while one patient was arrested on suspicion of resisting an executive officer, August said.

The Fresno Bee reported that one patient accused others of throwing urine on coffee shop employees and starting fires, while another estimated that about 60 windows were smashed.

The unrest prompted a lockdown at the 1,286-bed facility, which sits 60 miles southwest of Fresno. Officials brought in extra police officers and have closed the hospital’s visiting center indefinitely.

While the new regulations apply to all state hospitals, the turmoil has been confined to Coalinga, August said.


Twitter: @AleneTchek


Jan. 18, 10 p.m.: This article was updated with information about arrests and to clarify the new policy.


This article was originally published on Jan. 17 at 11:05 p.m.