Violence increases at California state hospitals

January 1, 2011

Three Sacramento lawmakers, including state Senator Sam Blakeslee (R-San Luis Obispo) are pressing for significant changes to make state mental hospitals safer. [LA Times]

The new call stems from the slaying of a Napa State Hospital psychiatric technician two months ago, angering hospital employees throughout the California system. Experts say that more than 90 percent of current inmates have committed crimes.

That dramatic trend has brought an increasing level of violence to the hospitals, including vicious attacks on patients and hospital employees.‬ As assaults rose, staff members privately urged state officials to improve security at the hospitals to no avail, documents show.

Blakeslee  has met numerous times over the years with employees at Atascadero State Hospital and said he was shocked by the rising degree of danger.

“This level of violence is unacceptable,” Blakeslee said.‬

The unions that represent hospital employees are working together to craft legislation that calls for high-security units at each state hospital to house the most predatory patients, expedited hearings to involuntarily medicate those who are violent and a streamlined process to transfer dangerous criminals sent for treatment by the corrections system back to prison.‬

“There needs to be capacity to handle patients who are not completely right for a pure corrections system or a pure therapeutic setting,” Blakeslee said.‬

In the Napa case, 54-year-old Donna Gross, the first staff member killed in the hospital system in two decades, was strangled. by an inmate.

Blakeslee said he is committed to legislation calling for high-security units.



  1. BobP says:

    What you guys are missing is that the attacks happen in the blink of an eye. The patients will walk by and just sucker punch a staff member, normally someone much samller than they are, with no warning and jump on them like a wild beast either beating on them or much, much, worse. The staff is in close proximaty with the patients all day. It is not like a prison but a hospital, the patients are allowed to roam where they want. There are attacks all the time. The staff is trained to all run to the attacked staff member for assistance and jump on and restrain the patient. The staff, even the on ground police, are not allowed to have weapons of any kind, agian this in not like a prison. Prison gaurds get extra state pay becasue they are around crimals, hospital staff don’t get this even though attacks on them are far more frequent. The staff understand the danger and are on high alert all the time but it is a very dangerous environment. So even though some form of self defense training might help, a lot of times it would be inaftective because the person attacked wouldn’t have the opportunity to use it.

    (7) 7 Total Votes - 7 up - 0 down
    • willie says:

      What a nice heaven for a serial predator to be garaged
      They can kill, assault, maim in seconds or less and not be prosecuted because they are legally insane
      On the other hand a psy-tech cannot abuse them without consequences.

      Not trying to make all this like an arms race but government won’t address this issue at ASH (Wait and see what Blakeslee can do)
      Here is where I fully agree with BobfromSLO
      At least “some” basic training helps deflect off or at least “increase the percentage” of the good old sudden unexpected impact of a sucker punch.
      A choke or a sucker punch could occur right next to an open door where a pre-occupied co-worker is and because of its virtual silence can be un-noticed.
      Many years ago I was in a restaurant in Glendale, Ca, I was seated in a side room because of overcrowding. Inside that room there were two plain off duty LE and two sociopath type I believe under the influence of drugs, they were unruly, abusive and became physical to the waiter.
      One of the off duty LE intervene and disabled one of them, the other tried to attack the officer from the side but the second off duty LE put him in a choke hold. The visual scene was violent, but the sound was virtually unnoticeable or silent, no one a few feet away in the adjacent room even had a clue something was happening. The conclusion from the start was less than a minute!
      The reality is it took less than a second to daze Donna Gross and less than a couple or a few minutes to choke her to death and done silently.

      Whether feasible or not, some basic martial arts (such as Aikido but I recommend Jiu-jitsu) should be allowed to be acceptable (It was out of the question in earlier employee modeling) due to the nature of the job and circumstance.

      (4) 4 Total Votes - 4 up - 0 down
  2. willie says:

    My last comment with consideration to Mental State Hospital employees charged with caretaking of the criminally insane..
    I can see the government endorsing and even subsidizing or providing basic Aikido to employees but unlikely any other arts.
    To personify this more, if my children and friends were to be employed in an environment where potential uncontrolled psychopaths exist and security is inadequate, I would have them pursue “jiu-jitsu” (any) for the following reasons:
    1. “jiu-jitsu” includes Aikido (using opponent’s energy against him/herself)
    2. “jiu-jitsu” includes Judo (Grappling, throws, tripping and choke holds!!! This IS IMPORTANT)
    3. “jiu-jitsu” includes karate (When all else fails)
    Why limit yourself when your life is at stake dealing a deranged maniac!

    (2) 6 Total Votes - 4 up - 2 down
  3. bobfromsanluis says:

    Willie: I am not going to debate you any further about choke holds or anything else martial arts related; I know what I know, your arguments are not going to change my mind, and apparently your not going to change yours either, so let’s just let that part of the discussion drop. My main point was that every single person employed at a state hospital that is going to be in contact with the patients needs to have as much self defense on their side as possible to have any and all advantage in any potential situation that could arise. It was very sad to read that Donna Gross was killed because she was working at her job, and my thoughts are that she could have been able to avoid the situation all together with proper training. I would highly recommend that all law enforcement personal and prison guards also look into bolstering their on-the-job training with the study of Aikido as well.

    (2) 6 Total Votes - 4 up - 2 down
    • willie says:

      I fully agree with you.
      (Nevertheless I did enjoy the exchange of information)
      Employees at Atascadero State Hospital have told me that although they have State Police in the facilities, there is no security for their safety.

      (4) 4 Total Votes - 4 up - 0 down
  4. willie says:

    Rule #1 never even let them get you in a chokehold (usually preceded by assault, close proximity or with a distraction)
    If a choke is ever put on you even half way correctly, not even a well-trained black belt can escape it!
    In this day and age many criminals, mental cases and homeless know choking and strangling methods.

    (-2) 4 Total Votes - 1 up - 3 down
    • bobfromsanluis says:

      Willie: You are wrong, again. When I trained in Aikido, we did learn how to escape from a choke hold; it can be done, you just need proper training, but the best defense again, is to be aware of your surroundings at all times and avoid being attacked in the first place. One the main reasons that I believe that Aikido is such an effective art is that you do practice a “full contact” attack, over and over so that if you are ever attacked in real life, you will respond, not freeze up in panic. It works.

      (-1) 1 Total Votes - 0 up - 1 down
      • willie says:

        These techs are already aware of their surroundings, its the proximity they have to keep in mind.
        I agree in part but since the earlier days Ive seen a lot of modification of the old, if done right even you won’t escape it unless your able to get your chin under his elbow or get lucky and stab a pen or pencil (anything) down his inner elbow (painful nerve).

        (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  5. bobfromsanluis says:

    I cannot understand why anyone who works at a California State Hospital that knows they are going to be working with patients who have all sorts of mental issues, many who have committed crimes would not take it upon themselves to get training in self defense. I don’t know anyone who works in that environment so it is possible that they do receive some training in an official state approved approach, but even then I would highly suggest that every single person working there go out and sign up for Aikido lessons. I do not mean to suggest that this would be the end all to be all for those workers, BUT, those who have taken Aikido for least a few years certainly have an advantage in being aware of their surroundings and how to avoid being attacked. Certainly, learning from this approach could not hurt. My condolences to the family of Ms. Gross, the person mentioned in the article who was killed while working at a state hospital.

    (3) 5 Total Votes - 4 up - 1 down

Comments are closed.