Inside a Hospital for the Criminally Insane

Stephen Seager knows he could lose his job, but he doesn’t care. He didn’t ask his employer’s permission to write Behind the Gates of Gomorrahan account of the rampant and unchecked violence that Seager says he’s both witnessed and experienced as a psychiatrist at California’s Napa State Hospital. The forensic facility, the second-largest in the country, houses “the school shooters, the James Holmeses, and Jeffrey Dahmers of the world,” as Seager puts it. Nor did he warn the hospital that the book is being published this week.

“I want their honest response,” he told me over the phone from his home in northwest California. “We’re getting the shit kicked out of us and no one cares. Not just the staff, the patients. And they can’t leave at the end of the day—they have to live there. If this stops one of them from getting beaten, it was all worth it.”

In his book, Seager describes his first year at one of Napa State Hospital’s high-risk units: a fenced-in “secure treatment area,” reminiscent on the outside of a “sprawling prisoner-of-war-camp in a World War II movie,” and on the inside of the fictional Baltimore State hospital depicted in The Silence of the Lambs.  more

What Care for the Criminally Insane Can Teach Us About Mental Health Treatment

PORTLAND, Ore. — In the midst of a harrowing psychotic episode in summer 2009, Annie broke into her ex-husband’s house and used a hammer and scissors to lay waste to plates, knickknacks, clothing, “and honestly, I don’t know what else.”

Had the mother of four, a retired captain in the National Guard, chosen to plead guilty, as a first offender she might have gotten off with the six months she’d already spent in jail.

Instead, she chose to accept the verdict of “guilty except for insanity” — Oregon’s version of the insanity defense. For Annie, who asked that her real name not be used because she fears being stigmatized, that meant accepting state supervision until 2029, when she will be 68.  more

She has no doubt she made the right choice.

When ‘Not Guilty’ Is a Life Sentence

What happens after a defendant is found not guilty by reason of insanity? Often the answer is involuntary confinement in a state psychiatric hospital — with no end in sight.

Despite Ann’s determination to betray no emotion, a drop of sweat rolled down her temple as a guard painstakingly examined her lunch items. That Sunday morning, she had taken two buses, two trains and a shuttle to get from her home to the New York state psychiatric facility where her son is confined. Frustrated, she pushed back a little, but just a little, when the guard took away two sealed bottles of fruit-flavored water, a special treat that Ann had made an extra stop to buy. She watched as he held them up to examine them and concluded that they must contain caffeine — which is not allowed — because they did not read, “Does not contain caffeine.”  more

Voices Made Them Do It

When someone says they’re hearing voices, what does that really mean? Are they schizophrenic? Imagining things? Or have they simply lost their minds? There’s a long history of people who went crazy hearing voices. From celebrities to serial killers, people who heard voices in their heads sometimes were driven to madness or found a way to channel their sounds for the greater good.

Some of these people managed to pull themselves out of the downward spiral that they were in and make legitimate and palpable changes to society. Some gave into the voices and ended up becoming a statistic, and one woman used her voices to help her find a career as a psychic. Unfortunately, most of the folks who went insane hearing voices didn’t manage to turn their lives around.

18 Famous People Who Heard Voices