Contraband sneaked into Coalinga max security facility for sexually violent predators

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Coalinga State Hospital is cracking down on the devious tricks -- inmates use to get what they can't have. (KFSN)

Contraband is sneaking past security at a maximum security hospital for sexually violent predators and the hospital's employees are under investigation. Coalinga State Hospital is cracking down on the devious tricks -- inmates use to get what they can't have.

The hospital holds people deemed dangerous to society and the state is very secretive about what goes on there, partly because of patient privacy laws. But Action News uncovered details of phones, tobacco, and drugs getting inside with help from staff members.

Barbed wire and brick walls surround the Coalinga State Hospital, keeping sexually violent predators and mentally disordered offenders away from society. Inmates are allowed visitors, but their contact with the outside world is otherwise limited. Computers, cell phones, and other electronics are not allowed; nor are drugs or tobacco. But guards are finding all of it inside the facility, and the employees are sometimes to blame, according to a search warrant we dug up.

At the entrance, employees and visitors are greeted by this sign that says all their packages can be inspected, but the warrant details how some items can get around that. A caf worker told investigators she hid contraband in her bra.

Detectives say Roy Russ was the beneficiary of her deception. They say she got $1000 to deliver 12 packages of tobacco and other items, including a cell phone. Russ is a 47-year-old serial sex criminal who one doctor described as a psychopath. Guards confiscated a cell phone found on his bed and the entire operation started to unravel. Investigators say the caf worker confessed to smuggling him contraband in food containers. She was fired.

Text messages also implicated two more hospital employees, including a security guard, and three outsiders as well. We reached out to all the conspirators, but none of them would explain what they had done. In fact, two of them hung up on an Action News reporter. They could all face misdemeanor charges for the contraband activities. Prosecutors say inmates caught with contraband usually face nothing more than minor discipline.

Russ called an Action News reporter late Thursday and after a few choice words, he said getting contraband into the hospital is no big deal and he didn't even need help from staff members.

At this point, no charges have been filed against any of the people involved in the case. A spokesman for the Department of State Hospitals says they had nearly 300 contraband cases at Coalinga last year alone. He also detailed state hospital security measures:

"Patients are searched when they are admitted to the facility," Ralph Montano said in an e-mail. "Visitors are also subject to searches before visits including metal detection wands. When employees come to work each day, their bags are also searched for contraband. Employees are not allowed to have their own personal cellular phones inside of the secure area. On a random basis, employees are also searched with a metal detection wand. Contraband sweeps in patient areas are conducted periodically. The scheduling is frequently changed to throw off attempts to thwart searches. Narcotics dogs are used in some of these searches."

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