Yesterday found me consumed the last minute preparations of JiLTED‘s mini issue so off went the TV. It’s both ridiculous and shameful how much television I watch…but I’ll save that post for another day. Suffice it to say I require something mindless that enables me to zone out entirely and exert zero brainpower whatsoever. Cable marathons [Law & Order: SVU (although that’s my preference I’ll never deny a Law & Order), Criminal Minds, NCIS, Ghost Adventures, and especially Lockup] work wonders in my quest to get sucked into the boob tube for hours on end.
As soon as the issue was released it was time for Lockup. I’d even left it on MSNBC so I could flick my remote and jump right into the action. Imagine my surprise when I heard this sentence: “Atascadero State Hospital, the large all-male maximum security for the most violent criminally insane sexual offenders….” Come again? It’s impossible to miss the sign for the hospital and the acreage [the buildings cannot be seen without entering the property] as you can see it from El Camino Real, the main street in Atascadero, but I was completely oblivious to the fact that it was a facility of this nature. And here I am thinking it’s more along the lines of MMHI [Memphis Mental Health Institute]. Apparently it employs 2000+ people on over a thousand acres.
Here’s what their website has to say: “Located on California’s Central Coast, midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, Atascadero State Hospital (ASH) is an all-male, maximum security, forensic facility serving the entire state of California. ASH opened in 1954 and is a completely self-contained psychiatric hospital constructed within a security perimeter. ASH has a licensed capacity of 1275 beds, of which 204 are acute/psychiatric and 1071 are intermediate care. All residents at Atascadero State Hospital are male and have a mental disability and pose a threat to others or themselves. The majority are remanded for treatment by the superior courts of the counties of California or by the Department of Corrections pursuant to various sections of the California Penal Code and the Welfare and Institutions Code. Individuals are admitted from state prisons, county jails or are transferred from other state hospitals. The hospital does not accept voluntary admissions.”
While I’m sure this isn’t the most cheerful work or ‘residential’ environment, the more I read about it, the more disgusted I feel. I’m not going to pretend to be an authority on the subject– though I definitely want to ask Brandi [she’s lived in this area a long time and used to work in the medical field]– but it sounds like major reform is needed. NPR’s article “Violence Surges At Hospital For Mentally Ill Criminals” explores some of the recent issues with this place.
With infinite love, gratitude, and respect,