Behind the Gates of Gomorrah: A year with the Criminally Insane

December 1, 2014 6:14 PM

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In Behind the Gates of Gomorrah (Gallery Books. September, 2014), Dr. Stephen Seager describes what goes on behind the barbed wire fence at NAPA State Forensic Hospital in California where persons with serious mental illness found not guilty by reason of insanity, unfit to stand trial or were convicted in spite of mental illness are housed. It is perhaps the best horror book ever written. No special effects needed. As the psychiatrist responsible for "Unit C" he chronicles the daily beatings of those with mental illness by others with mental illness and how mental health advocates make it impossible for caring staff to stop it. I highly recommend it for those who run state and county mental health departments, because it shows the consequences of offloading the most seriously ill to criminal justice. It should also be read by civil libertarians and advocates. By preventing medication over objection, and removal of guns from the seriously ill, they are forcing tens of thousands of the most seriously mentally ill to live out their lives in the 24/7 horror of forensic units.

Today, largely as the result of our failure to prioritize the most seriously mentally ill for treatment, there are ten times as many mentally ill incarcerated as hospitalized. NAPA State is one of two hundred state forensic hospitals and in the opening Dr. Seager notes, "A forensic hospital is not a...

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