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Behind the Gates of Gomorrah: A Year with…
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Behind the Gates of Gomorrah: A Year with the Criminally Insane

by Stephen Seager

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reminds me of somewhere. ( )
  cookierooks | Nov 16, 2016 |
When Stephen Seager became the psychiatrist of Unit C at Napa State Hospital, he knows little about how one of the largest forensic mental hospitals in the country is run or what really goes on behind the chain link fence topped with razor wire. By the end of his first day, however, he's gotten in the middle of a fight and has a head wound that requires ten stitches. Over the year that follows, Dr. Seager is involved in many other serious fights, leading him to question the fact that some of the world's most dangerous criminals interact freely with each other and with the staff. He also comes to know the patients and the contradictions that they present. One of the most dangerous patients both threatens Dr. Seager and then helps him to administer CPR to a staff member. Seager doesn't pull any punches or make apologies for these men, but he does provide a full and realistic picture of life in Unit C of the hospital that has come to be know as Gomorrah. ( )
  porch_reader | Oct 16, 2016 |
Considering I just finished reading The Architecture of Madness, I don't think I could have picked a better time to read Behind the Gates of Gomorrah. Umpteen years after deinstitutionalization, state mental hospitals are pretty much warehouses for the only mentally ill men and women who are *required* to be there, namely, criminals. As Dr. Seager outlines in his memoir, not only the patients in the state hospitals, but also every member of the staff from the psychiatrists down to the janitors, are locked in a facility with no guards and disgustingly few safety precautions. Fights are ubiquitous and collateral damage means injuries (and even death) to those unlucky enough to get in the crosshairs.

This memoir hits on a lot of topics related to social justice. What should happen to mentally ill criminals? Why do some of the mentally ill wind up in prisons, and some in hospitals? How can employees of state hospitals stand up for their own personal safety when they're dependent on their income to support themselves and/or their families? Do people have a right to know if a mentally ill criminal escapes from a hospital?

It's really eye-opening to read about just how dangerous it is to work or live in a state mental hospital. I think Dr. Seager does a good job explaining the fine line between looking at (and treating) criminals as horrible human beings who have destroyed countless other lives, and also as human beings that are locked inside of a facility with other (sometimes unstable) mentally ill criminals. Unfortunately, even though Dr. Seager outlines a few things that could help, the sorry state of US politics has made me cynical enough to believe that we're going to be stuck with the status quo for a long time, even though the status quo is not working. ( )
  lemontwist | Aug 8, 2015 |
Why on earth was this the book I could quickly sail through, when I’m struggling with so many other books?! It literally gave me nightmares. Thank goodness it has some comic relief and family aspects in the narrative. I felt horrified (I guess I was supposed to) and I could never work there, at least not on a similar unit. The place seems to have changed so much. I was there as a student 3 decades ago, and while there were some forensic psych patents there, more on the adolescent unit than the adult unit of the units to which I was assigned, it was nothing like what this author describes.

I have really mixed feeling about the author and this book. It was able to hold my attention but some connection was missing for me. I did take away, yet again, that we have a broken system, in so many ways. ( )
  Lisa2013 | Jan 19, 2015 |
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