Violence At California's Psychiatric Hospitals
In California, prison inmates who have committed serious crimes and have been diagnosed with a major mental illness can be forced to serve their parole in a state hospital. At Atascadero State Hospital, shown above in this 1999 photo, there are more than 600 such patients. "As a group," says the hospital's director, "the mentally disordered offenders are the most aggressive."
Mental health and law enforcement officials in California are wrestling with that question as violence at the state's psychiatric hospitals continues to escalate. They are trying to determine how to hold violent mental patients accountable for their actions without punishing them for being sick.
December 20, 2011 Most of the patients in the state's psychiatric hospitals have been committed by the criminal justice system — and violence against staff members and other patients is on the rise. But of the thousands of attacks that occur each year, few are treated as crimes.
July 21, 2011 Thousands of assaults occur each year at California's state psychiatric hospitals. Last year, a staffer was killed at Napa State Hospital. Employees there demonstrated, demanding greater safety. Now, protests have spread to a hospital near Los Angeles, where workers say it's not if you get assaulted, it's when.
April 19, 2011 There has been a dramatic increase in violence at California's state psychiatric hospitals. A patient at Napa State Hospital died there last week, less than six months after an employee was killed. The state's secretary of Health and Human Services has lifted a hiring freeze to add more clinical and security staff.
April 8, 2011 Atascadero State Hospital in central California was built to treat criminals who are mentally ill. But since 2006, assaults on staff have risen markedly. Employees blame the increase on a federally enforced plan that they say requires them to spend more time on paperwork than treating patients.
April 7, 2011 When a psychiatric technician at Napa State Hospital was murdered last fall, allegedly by a patient, staffers began going public with their safety complaints. More than 80 percent of the patients at the hospital arrived by way of the criminal justice system — deemed either not guilty by reason of insanity or just too dangerous to be paroled.