Saturday, April 4, 2015

A darker twist on Orange is the New Black, this true insider's account delivers an eye-opening look into the nation’s largest state-run forensic hospital, a facility that houses the real-life Hannibal Lecters of the world.

Psychiatrist Stephen Seager was no stranger to locked psych wards when he accepted a job at California’s Gorman State hospital, known locally as “Gomorrah,” but nothing could have prepared him for what he encountered when he stepped through its gates, a triple sally port behind the twenty-foot walls topped with shining coils of razor wire. Gorman State is one of the nation’s largest forensic mental hospitals, dedicated to treating the criminally insane. Unit C, where Seager was assigned, was reserved for the “bad actors,” the mass murderers, serial killers, and the real-life Hannibal Lecters of the world.

Against a backdrop of surreal beauty—a verdant campus-like setting where peacocks strolled the grounds—is a place of remarkable violence, a place where a small staff of clinicians are expected to manage a volatile population of prison-hardened ex-cons, where lone therapists lead sharing circles with sociopaths, where an illicit underground economy flourishes, and where patients and physicians often measure their lives according to how fast they can run. To cross through the gates of Gomorrah is to enter a looking-glass world, where the trappings of the normal calendar year exist—Halloween dances and Christmas parties (complete with visits from Santa), springtime softball teams and basketball leagues, but marked with paroxysms of brutality (Santa goes berserk), and peopled by figures from our nightmares.

Behind the Gates of Gomorrah affords an eye-opening look inside a facility to which few people have ever had access. Honest, rueful, and at times darkly funny, Seager’s gripping account of his rookie year blends memoir with a narrative science, explaining both the aberrant mind and his own, at times incomprehensible, determination to remain in a job with a perilously steep learning curve.

I had a personal interest in reading this book since I've worked in three different mental hospitals with one being a security hospital which is also known as a prison for the criminally insane.

Dr. Seager hits it out of the park in this book. I'd have to give it five out of five stars.

The only difference between the Doc and myself is that it seemed he was always in fear when he was inside the walls and I found being inside a source of pure adrenaline.

I worked in a facility in the upper midwest which I won't name but it was in a state that has a pro football team that always seems to set records for drunken driving, spousal abuse, once having a quarterback who set selfies of his crank to a woman when he was on a previous team, and more recently their star running back beat the shit out of his son with a switch - an act that brought unwelcome headline attention to the state and the team.

The facility I had worked in housed murderers, rapists, guys who raped dogs, serial dick flashers, child molesters, and about any other kind of deviant behavior you can imagine.

There were so many oddballs in there it would take all day to document it so here are just a few:

Norm who beat his mother to death with a frying pan. That biscuit eater was so dangerous that he had a leather weight lifting belt locked around his waist with one hand always strapped to it.

Bob who was chucked off a tier in a penitentiary and couldn't feel anything below his waist but could still walk and needed two forced enemas a week which the guards had to witness. To clean out Bob it took 2 Fleet enemas to prime the pump and then a gallon of soapy water to finish the deal.

Danny, who was mostly deaf and stuttered like a fucking traffic cop and who could drop his pants and direct a stream of shit at an enemy like a flame-throwing skunk.

Another Dan, a one eyed Indian who was in for raping young girls and who used to store cigarette butts in his vacant eye socket and who once gave the whole unit head lice in their crotches after he gave everybody a blow job for some smokes.

Patrick, who thought he was in the CIA.

A patient got a 800 number of a pen company in Ohio out of a magazine and called in a bomb threat on the patient phone that cost the company thousands of dollars.

A female patient who was "dating" a other nut from another unit had her beau jerk off in a cup for days and then she drank it down like a glass of expensive champagne when they met up one weekend in the canteen.

It's not a place for the squeamish but I sure had fun in the 13 months I was there. Talk about a life experience!

The first day on the job, fresh out of orientation, the unit boss had within seconds tossed me a set of cuffs and pointed to a dude standing by the security door.

"See that fucking nut there? Cuff his ass and walk up him up to ECT so they can fry his nuts!"