Barring a veto by Gov. Jerry Brown, it will soon be a misdemeanor to bring contraband into California state hospitals for the mentally ill.
Both houses of the Legislature unanimously approved San Luis Obispo Sen. Sam Blakeslee’s SB 796, which makes it a misdemeanor for any visitor to a state hospital to bring in an unauthorized wireless communication device, tobacco products, or currency. If convicted, violators could be punished by a fine of $1,000 for each item.
“With the recent escalation in violence and tragic deaths, this is an important step to strengthen workplace safety and better equip staff to manage challenging patients,” Blakeslee said in a news release.
State hospitals have undergone leadership changes and employee criticism over the last few years, mainly due to a massive policy overhaul at the hands of the U.S. Department of Justice. Scrutiny peaked following the death of Napa State Hospital employee Donna Gross who was murdered in late 2010 by patient Jess Willard Massey. Massey pleaded no contest on Aug. 23 to the murder and was sentenced to 25 years to life in state prison.
Blakeslee’s bill would apply to state mental hospitals, such as Atascadero State Hospital, which houses criminal offenders and has grown more dangerous to employees over the past few years.