By Jake Delahanty
Pedophiles. They are arguably society’s most hated criminals.
Despite our feelings toward them, should we stand by as institutions like Coalinga State Hospital warehouse these criminals without rehabilitating them?
I say no, absolutely not.
Coalinga State Hospital, a mental hospital in California, houses almost 1,000 of the state’s most dangerous pedophiles. After serving their time in prison, these criminals are sent over to Coalinga because they are seen as too much of a threat to communities to simply be released. At Coalinga, they are supposed to undergo rehabilitation so they can eventually assimilate back into society.
But it is not working.
In Louis Theroux’s documentary “A Place for Pedophiles,” he visited the hospital to try to understand what exactly was going on.
“Coalinga has been hailed by some as the best solution to the problem on pedophilia,” Theroux said in the film. “(But) it’s also been accused as being a kind of prison in disguise.”
Theroux is spot on with this assessment. Only thirteen men have ever been approved for release after successfully completing the rehabilitation program. The vast majority of Coalinga sex offenders will likely die there.
Clearly, the hospital’s rehabilitation program is not working.
But maybe that is exactly what the hospital wants. Coalinga cost almost $400 million to build and it gets $200,000 from the state for each incarcerated individual per year. Logically, it would be in the best interest of the institution to hold on to its prisoners as long as possible to rake in the cash.
Simple math tells us that 1,000 individuals at $200,000 a year is costing the state $200 million every year. And that is taxpayer money. If I lived in California, I would be outraged that my money is being wasted on warehousing these criminals with minimal rehabilitation effort.
On the other hand, maybe it is just really tough to rehabilitate these individuals. I talked with Assistant Professor and Chair of Psychology Chris Henry at Guilford for his take on the issue.
“Most people who are depressed or anxious feel like ‘this is something I want to get rid of,’” said Henry. “With addictions and personality disorders (like pedophilia), people often say, ‘I don’t have a problem,’ so rehabilitation is harder.”
I agree with Henry. I think it is fair to say some of the failures of Coalinga can be attributed to the nature of the crimes and the psyches of the individuals. But still, it is no excuse.
“However, the hospital clearly has an incentive to keep people as long as possible, so it’s tough to say what exactly is going on and what the best solution is,” said Henry.
Coalinga is definitely benefiting financially from holding on to the criminals. It is a messy situation.
So why is Coalinga still operational despite its shortcomings? Assistant Professor of Justice and Policy Studies Sanjay Marwah shared his thoughts.
“As a society, we’ve given up on helping pedophiles,” said Marwah. “These are people with serious mental health problems, but rehabilitation is such a low priority.”
You cannot really argue with this statement. Helping out pedophiles is not exactly on society’s to-do list. As long as they are off the streets, people could not care less about what is being done to them.
“There are no real alternatives (to Coalinga) at this time. Therefore, I’d say justice for society is being served, just not for the individuals,” said Marwah.
So, Coalinga is wasting taxpayers’ money and holding on to sex offenders indefinitely. This is not right. However, I think Marwah is sadly accurate; there are no real alternatives to Coalinga at this time.
Though there may not be any alternatives, it does not mean there are not any solutions to this problem. Namely, more light needs to be shined on this situation to make Coalinga more accountable for rehabilitating its sex offenders.
Even if you do not care about the rights of those incarcerated in Coalinga, which is completely understandable given the nature of their crimes, you should still care about the institution’s failure to make a difference. Money is thrown at the institution, but nothing is changing.