The $388-million facility sprawled on the desolate outskirts of Coalinga, Calif., was intended to answer a pressing problem: what to do with hundreds of repeat pedophiles and rapists in California who have served their prison terms but are deemed too risky for release. This was to be a hospital dedicated primarily to such “sexually violent predators,” who can be lawfully detained for mental health treatment, reports the Los Angeles Times. It was the first state mental hospital built in more than half a century, and few amenities were spared.
Treatment, however, is in short supply. Despite vigorous recruiting efforts, not enough nurses, doctors and technicians want to work at this remote outpost. As a result, six months after the 1,500-bed hospital opened to the speeches of lawmakers, only about 170 patients have moved in. More than 400 sexually violent predators await transfer from Atascadero State Hospital near San Luis Obispo. And hundreds of other beds, which could be filled with patients with other mental disorders, remain unoccupied in a system that otherwise is badly overcrowded.